Preventing elder abuse by adding conditions to an Enduring Power of Attorney

Many people are aware of the importance of having a properly prepared Power of Attorney in place. It is a safeguard against a time when you might not be able to make your own decisions. Often, unfortunately, powers of attorney are being linked to elder abuse. What can be done to prevent elder abuse, but still empower someone to make decisions for us if we can’t do it ourselves?

First, a brief reminder. What is a Power of Attorney? In Victoria, an Enduring Power of Attorney allows you (the Donor) to empower someone to make decisions of a legal, financial, and personal nature. You can appoint two or more people to act together. You can also appoint one or more people to act as a back-up, in the event that your first choice cannot or will not act for you.

What is a ‘financial matter’? A financial matter is any matter relating to your financial or property affairs, including any legal matter.
Examples of financial matters are:

  • paying expenses;
  • receiving and recovering money payable to you;
  • buying and selling property for you;
  • making investments for you.

What is a ‘personal matter’? A personal matter means any matter relating to your personal or lifestyle affairs.

Examples of personal matters are:

  • where and with whom you live;
  • persons with whom you associate;
  • daily living issues such as diet and dress;
  • health care matters, including whether to consent to medical treatment.
What conditions and limitations can I add? It’s entirely up to you. It really depends on your personal circumstances.
A very common condition is to say that the power can’t be exercised unless you have lost capacity. You can add that you would like a certain doctor, or two or more doctors, all to agree that you have lost capacity, before the power can be exercised.

Some other examples are:-

  • to say that your Attorney cannot sell your home unless certain conditions are met (such as, for example, both a doctor and an occupational therapist providing written evidence that you cannot continue to live at home);
  • That your attorneys (two or more) must act unanimously;
  • That your attorney must seek the written opinion of a trusted adviser (accountant, financial planner and/or lawyer) before undertaking certain acts;
  • That your attorney is entitled to give gifts to themselves or their family members, but only to the value of (say) $50, and only one gift per family member per year.

Conclusion Despite some negative headlines, Powers of Attorney are an important part of planning properly for one’s future needs. They should not be treated as a ‘fill the blanks’ exercise. Have a conversation with one of our lawyers today to chat about your future needs, and whether conditions within your Power of Attorney is right for you.

For advice and assistance with making a power of attorney, phone Trent or a member of the Wills and Estates legal team at Robertson Hyetts Solicitors on 5434 6666 or 5472 1588 for an appointment.