I have been contacted over a number of years, including quite recently, in relation to what can only be described as ‘elder abuse’. Elder abuse occurs when an elderly person is the subject of abuse, normally by a family member and normally financially, for the gain of that family member. The family member may be an attorney, appointed pursuant to an Enduring Power of Attorney.

In some cases the perpetrator is not a family member at all, but what is affectionately referred in popular culture as a ‘gold digger’. My unfortunate involvement recently involved a 90 something year-old gentleman who was cohabitating and “assisting” (financially) a lady some 30 years his junior. The concerns were raised by a relative. Unfortunately, the elderly gentleman did not have any children of his own and the person suspected of inflicting the financial abuse was not his attorney, and therefore not subject to the provisions of the Powers of Attorney Act.

Although the elder abuse was reported, ultimately to date it has been determined that the elderly gent, although quite clearly making poor financial decisions, is entitled to make those poor financial decisions and that at this stage has the capacity to make those poor judgements and divest himself of the majority of his estate to his “loving” partner and her adult children. This situation highlights difficulty in identifying and prosecuting elder abuse. It also highlights quite poignantly the extreme difficulty in proving and prosecuting undue influence claims.

Circumstances such as these are horrid. The elderly adult is capable although clearly beginning to fail and is being taken advantage of. I don’t have the answer to this problem, in situations like these government intervention is warranted in my view. The best you can do is to report the abuse to th Elder Abuse Prevention Unit 1300 651 192 or the Public Advocate 3224 7424. Information about how to support an elderly person whom you suspect of being the victim of elder abuse can be found by clicking here.

Until next time,

Dan Hutchinson


This is general legal advice only and is not intended to be relied upon by any party. We disclaim any loss or damage caused by reliance upon the general advice contained in this article. Your individual circumstances must be assessed prior to taking any action in relation to any matter discussed in any one of our articles or blog posts.