Seniors: Find the will to protect your assets

ALMOST 50 per cent of West Australians have never made a will and risk their life savings going to the state, according to the Public Trustee WA.

Trustee director Etta Palumbo says that if you don’t have an up-to-date, legally-valid will, it’s likely that the state will benefit and your family and friends will lose out.

Ms Palumbo, one of the best-known speakers on wills in WA, will be hosting free community talks on wills and the importance of planning ahead during Seniors Week (November 11–17).

She says about 34 per cent of West Australians reported their will is not up-to-date.

“Writing a will and being prepared can be easy and cost-effective compared to dying intestate and, at the Public Trustee, we want to ensure that all West Australian’s have access to information and services to help them through the process” said Ms Palumbo.

The Trustee will also be giving advice on deceased estates and how to safeguard against financial or elder abuse in later life.

The WA government is so concerned about elderly financial abuse it launched an inquiry into the issue, which was tabled in parliament last month.

The inquiry has so far been told that an estimated one in 20 of WA’s 350,000 seniors will have experienced violence, exploitation or neglect, often perpetrated by a family member.

According to Advocare, which launched the WA elder abuse hotline in 2014, financial abuse (34 per cent) and psychological abuse (33 per cent) were the most common forms of elderly abuse, with adult children being the most likely perpetrators.

Perth lawyer John Hammond told the Voice he was encountering more and more cases of elderly abuse and they usually involved greedy sons, daughters, nieces or nephews that can’t wait to get their hands on their elderly relation’s booty.

Greedy rellies

“I have been told of family members stealing cash, jewellery, cars and other assets from the elderly,” he says.

“I am aware of assets being fraudulently transferred, e.g. houses worth millions of dollars, and family members forging their parents’ signatures to transfer assets.

“And I’ve heard of family members acting unconscionably, to the extent of forcing their elderly mum to live with them in her declining years and using that proximity to pressure mum to change her will in their favour.”

Last month, after the report was tabled, WA attorney general John Quigley said he wanted to reform legislation to protect the elderly from financial abuse.

“The McGowan government is committed to amending the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 to implement the recommendations of a 2015 statutory review which will provide consistency over provisions for guardianship and administration, enduring powers of attorney and enduring powers of guardianship,” he said.

“These are important reforms to strengthen safeguards for adults with a decision-making disability and improve the overall operation of the Act. The previous Liberal National government did not progress the recommendations from that review.

“Drafting has commenced and it is anticipated that the bill will be introduced into parliament in the first half of 2019.

Abuse

“Elder abuse has also been on the agenda of the council of attorneys-general following the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response. Work is underway to develop the national plan to combat elder abuse.”

Free talks by the Public Trustee WA will be held at their offices at 533 Hay Street, Perth on November 12, 10.15am-11.45am, and November 13, 10.15am-11.45am and 1pm-2.30pm.

To book go to http://www.trybooking.com/XUKX

The public trustee is a statutory body which offers independent advice and operates under the authority of WA’s parliament.

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