Calls for tighter rules

We’re all told how important it is to have an enduring power of attorney as we get older, but by signing one, could you actually be giving someone the green light to steal your savings?

According to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), an enduring power of attorney is being used by some as a “licence to steal”. It recommends that a national register of people holding such authority be established to stop adult children driven by greed helping themselves to their parents’ savings.

Under the current system, there is no verification of withdrawals or transfers supposedly made on behalf of an elderly person.

In the discussion paper, to be released by the ALRC today, it is also suggested that there is a growing sense of “early inheritance syndrome”, where adult children are keen to receive money from their parents before they die. This is considered a form of financial abuse.

Speaking to the ABC, ALRC President, Rosalind Croucher said, “People describe powers of attorney as a licence to steal. 

“And there might be multiple powers of attorney. There’s an uncertainty as to which one is the right one, which one is the most recent, and which is the valid one.”

Professor Croucher also suggested that, to stop instances of coercion when an enduring power of attorney is signed, two officials, i.e. a member of the police force, lawyer or doctor should be present.

The inquiry from which the discussion paper has resulted was commissioned by Attorney-General George Brandis in February following reports of abuse of elderly people by those who are supposed to have their best interests at heart. This includes psychological, financial and physical abuse.

If accepted, the new proposals would require a provision for two people to approve access to a person’s bank account. It has also been recommended that those who are bankrupt, prohibited from directing a company or have a criminal record of fraud or dishonesty, would be prohibited from acting as enduring power of attorney.

What do you think? Is an enduring power of attorney likely to result in adult children stealing money from parents? Should we have tighter checks and procedures for those granted an enduring power of attorney? Do you have someone you can trust to be your enduring power of attorney or would reports of abuse discourage?

Find our more about the inquiry at
Listen to Professor Crouch’s speech on protecting the rights of older Australians 

Related articles:
The continued rise of elder abuse
Making an aged care complaint

Written by Debbie McTaggart


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