Financial abuse of elders

The second largest type of elder abuse is financial abuse. Did you ever think that in your golden years, your life would become a misery not because of the big bad world, but because of the actions of your children?

In your worst nightmare, can you imagine being robbed of your pension, not by a masked vandal, but by a family member? Of course you can’t, but this is the grim reality for far too many older people.

Stealing a parent’s money, house, savings and superannuation is an all too frequent occurrence. Although numerous cases of financial abuse are discovered, the oft repeated excuse was “But it’s going to be mine anyway!” There is even a term for it, intergenerational wealth redistribution – sounds less criminal than theft, doesn’t it? Frequently these cases go unprosecuted, because it must be a mistake, “my child would never do that to me”. Even in cases where abuse is proven, restitution is infrequent as often the money is long gone.

Consider this:

The kids convince their parent (s) to sell their house “It’s too big for you now” and use the proceeds to build a new home for the kids. “You can come and live with us in a granny flat, you will be close to the grandkids” only to find that they become the unpaid carer of their grandchildren at all hours as required, “It’s not as if you have anything else to do”.

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The promised granny flat is no more than a converted garage; with a tiny shower and toilet at one end. The kitchen is a microwave, a small stove top and a sink; not exactly the place for cosy meals. “We were going to build a granny flat, but when the pool, spa and entertaining area went, in there wasn’t enough room and what more do you need at your age?”

What happens if for some reason the parent wants some/all of their money returned? Chances are they are met with cries of “but you gave us the money as a gift,” or “who do you think has been paying the rates, taxes, water etc. on your granny flat?”

Do you think this is an exaggeration? How I wish it were. This is an actual case; the conversations are the only dramatic license.

What happens if there is a divorce requiring sale of the marital home? What is the parent’s share of the divorce settlement? What percentage of the settlement belongs to the person who sold their home to pay for the one being sold?

Now not for a minute am I suggesting parents should not assist their children – a granny flat arrangement can be a wonderful solution for both parties. BUT the interests of the parent, the elder, the senior MUST be protected. Legally binding documents must be drawn up which address such issues as interest payments, capital repayments, sharing expenses etc. We all believe it won’t happen to us, our kids aren’t like that; sadly too many older people have found to their dismay that their kids are just like that.

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The next generation have no right to, nor interest in, your money, home or other assets. This is money you earned and saved over a life time; it is your money to share, or not, as you see fit. You are not spending the kid’s inheritance, you are enjoying your life.

Are you in the position where you have put money into your child’s home? Are you protected against the worst case scenario?


Remember Trust Your Instincts – if it feels wrong, it is wrong.

There is someone you can talk to, all states have an Elder Abuse Helpline:

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Queensland – 1300 651 192

New South Wales – 1800 628 881

ACT (Canberra) – (02) 6242 5060

Victoria – 1300 368 821

Tasmania – (03) 6237 0047

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South Australia – (08) 8232 5377

Western Australia – 1300 724 679

Northern Territory – 1800 037 072