Did you know that 1 in 6 older Australians has experienced elder abuse? Here at Willed, we’re on a mission to help Australians get more comfortable with death, so they can create a solid estate plan and not leave family and friends dealing with all the tricky decisions during an already emotional time. By creating an Estate Plan today, you’ll not only take future familial arguments and legal disputes out of the equation, but you’ll also be minimising the likelihood of potential elder abuse in the future. (Smart).
Here’s how to get started.
The Basics of Estate Planning: A Checklist
There are heaps of ways you can use Estate Planning to make sure that elder abuse does not happen to you in the future. Here are three:
Creating a Trust
A Trust is a legal document that’s been aptly named by the legal profession (if we say so ourselves). It determines who your assets will go to once you have, um, kicked the bucket. As the trustor, you give another party – the trustee – the power to your property, personal belongings like jewellery, or other assets. Basically, it goes to the people that you love and (probably, we hope…) trust. See what we mean?
A Trust gives you the security to prevent elder abuse – specifically financial elder abuse, because you already have a plan to protect your assets should someone try to take advantage of you. By creating a Trust, you will have the final say over what happens to your assets once you, well… bite the dust, or no longer have the capacity to speak for yourself. You’re protecting future you.
Psst! Can’t figure out the difference between a Will and Trust?
We’ve got you. Read our previous blog on this topic right over here.
Appointing a responsible Power of Attorney (POA) who you trust
Acting as a person’s Power of Attorney (POA) mightn’t be an easy job, but it’s an important one.
A Power of Attorney is a written legal document that gives the person of your choosing the power (again, a literal title) to make legal, financial, business and personal decisions on your behalf.
Elderly people are often at risk of being targeted for financial abuse, as they are seen as vulnerable. Clear signs of financial abuse include:
- Unusual changes in spending
- Withdrawals that the older person clearly did not make
- Fraudulent signatures
- Changes to Wills, power of attorney or other legal documents without advising a long-term advisor or trusted family member or friend
- Name changes to bank accounts, properties and other assets
- The addition of a signatory
- When an older person has given away their online logins
By appointing a trusted POA, you are ensuring that someone you trust will be in charge of your finances, making you a less likely target for financial elder abuse in the future. This can also help to minimise the likelihood of emotional elder abuse since someone else will be able to speak in your defence. So, it’s less likely that someone will threaten you to hand over your money or other assets.
Power of Attorney’s aren’t just for the elderly, or for people reaching their final stages of life. For example, if you are overseas and own property in another country, you can also authorise a POA to handle the sale for you.
Setting up an Advance Healthcare Directive
In the event that you no longer have the capacity to make decisions for yourself or to communicate your preferences, an Advance Care Directive records your preferences for future health care.
In your Advance Healthcare Directive, you can include:
- Your legally-binding wishes about the future medical treatment you consent to, and others that you might refuse (this includes both physical and mental health conditions)
- A values directive that documents your values and medical treatment preferences, to help the person who may be making decisions for you
- You can also include your organ donation status
When a person (like a carer) intentionally fails to provide basic living necessities like food, medication and warmth, this is known as elder neglect. Having an Advanced Healthcare Directive in place can help prevent this, as it means you will have someone who can legally fight for you and your rights. Your healthcare documents are also proof of your wishes, so it’s hard for people to get away with elder abuse and neglect. As it should be.
Note: An Advance Care Directive will typically apply in other states and territories in Australia, but there may be some limitations and additional requirements. You can read more about this here.
It’s never too early to start organising your assets and planning your estate. By putting these assurances in place and completing a valid Will, you can lessen your chances of elder neglect and abuse, and ensure that your beneficiaries and belongings are cared for after you pass away.
We specialise in online Wills, made simple. Start writing your online Will today.