As Australians live longer, a delay in wealth transfer from older people to their relatives is leading to these cases of ‘inheritance impatience,’ writes Andrew Simpson of Maurice Blackburn and Co.
The phenomenon is a driver of elder abuse, and is an increasing concern for wills and estates lawyers like myself.
Beryl* was suffering from advanced dementia and was living in an aged care facility. Staff at the facility began noticing that Beryl’s daily care fees were not being paid on time. Several months passed and the fees stopped being paid altogether.
As she accumulated a significant debt, staff found they were not able to discuss the unpaid bills with Beryl due to her dementia. This led the facility to eventually apply for an Administration order so that her financial affairs could be investigated. An independent administrator was appointed for Beryl who investigated her financial affairs.
What we discovered is sadly emblematic of a larger problem happening in Australia today. Beryl’s son, who she’d appointed her Power of Attorney, had been spending her savings on himself instead of paying her bills.
Over about two years, he’d spent more than $100,000 while her bills stacked up.
In our experience, it is often people such as doctors and nurses, bank tellers, social services workers or lawyers who sound the alarm on abusive behaviour. That is crucial as many older people in these situations are unable to speak out for themselves.
*Beryl is not her real name
The worrying rise of ‘Inheritance impatience’ (Maurice Blackburn blog)