Speaking at a lunch in Sydney this week, Australian Unity Trustees national manager of estate planning Anna Hacker said one of the options that older people are turning to in their old age, particularly older women, is living with family.
“People have bigger homes so they can have their parents stay in their home if the other parent has passed away,” said Ms Hacker.
The problem with this, she explained, is that the parent then becomes reliant on the children.
“I saw an example of this last week where a lady wanted to change her will but she felt that she couldn’t because otherwise the children she was living with would be really upset and she was worried she’d be kicked out of the home,” she said.
“She has pressure on her not to do what she wants to do because she’s reliant on the children. So situations where people don’t have their own homes and they’re reliant on someone else, I think create a perfect storm for elder abuse.”
While sometimes these arrangements can work out well for both parties, it is essential that there are strict agreements in place.
“When it goes wrong, it goes really wrong. The parents lose their money and they’re left without accommodation,” she warned.
“In one situation, a parent ended up living in a caravan park because all of her money had gone into building a granny flat in their kid’s backyard. She didn’t have ownership over anything, they didn’t put an agreement in place, and now she’s living in a caravan park on a pension and has lost everything, so it’s devastating but we are seeing it more and more.”
Ms Hacker said a large proportion of the cases she works on are misappropriation cases where a family member has taken money or assets from an older relative.
“It is difficult to get it back. If it’s money, it’s been spent and if it’s assets, then they claim that it was a gift before the parent lost capacity,” she said.