Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPOAs) are increasingly being seen as an essential Estate Planning tool for older people.
I well recall receiving phone call from a distraught mid-aged daughter saying that her father had been diagnosed with dementia, that all the assets, bank accounts etc. were in his name, asking me – “What can Mum do?” My question –“Is there an EPOA?” Her answer – “no”. My response – “Then we have a problem”.
Of course that’s not the end of the options – there can be an Application for Guardianship through QCAT. There is the Adult Guardian. There is the Public Trustee. All viable options. All time consuming. All expensive.
If the father had given an EPOA to his wife (and usually they both give one to the other) then if one person becomes unable to manage their own affairs the EPOA kicks in and allows the competent spouse (or child in cases where there is only one surviving, or a separated spouse) to easily step in and manage things in the best interests of the incapable person.
Whilst EPOAs are very useful, sadly they can also be an opportunity for Elder Abuse. EPOAs in favour of children can sometimes be used by the child to act for their benefit, and not for the elderly person. EPOAs allow the attorney to operate bank accounts – a sensible way to pay bills, do shopping, and generally care and provide for the elderly person. However sometimes the temptation to “get the inheritance early” is too hard to resist, resulting in the elderly person’s funds being depleted, even exhausted.
Acting fraudulently with an EPOA is a crime, but detection isn’t easy, and it often requires another child, relative or friend to start asking questions to bring the abuse to the surface.