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Identifying elder abuse through the cloak of family kindness is a skill that can save an older person’s estate and protect their life.

Financial elder abuse is a dark and personal crime that doesn’t just cut deep on an emotional level when the perpetrator is family – it can destroy your estate and leave you vulnerable in the last years of life. 

Tom Jonas* was of the many older victims who fell prey to his own family. 

Jonas’s bank account held a considerable sum and he also owned a number of properties. Equity Trustees had been appointed as his power of attorney.
After Jonas had a catastrophic medical episode and lost capacity, his estranged daughter returned, but it was no happy reconciliation.

“We tried to engage with the daughter but she declined,” says Equity Trustees Senior Estates and Trusts Solicitor, Suzie Willis.

“Instead, the daughter took her father to another solicitor, and got them to prepare a will and a power of attorney that allegedly revoked our power of attorney and appointed the daughter in our place.


“He then took the newly made documents into the bank and closed down her father’s account containing $100,000.” The daughter transferred the money into a joint account held by her and her father. “We got wind of this very quickly and acted immediately to protect our client’s best interests.”

Equity Trustees contacted the bank to let them know the documents were invalid, as there was no evidence that Jonas had regained capacity.
“The bank stopped the transactions and transferred money back into the father’s account in his sole name and then back to us.
“We also made an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to question if the daughter’s power of attorney was valid.”
VCAT found in favour of Equity Trustees and ordered a neuropsychologist assess the claimed improvement in Jonas’ mental capacity. Equity Trustees are still waiting to receive that medical report.

Although the situation is sad, the eventual outcome was in Jonas’ favour: Equity Trustees protected his estate and safeguarded his finances.

While financial elder abuse is relatively uncommon, the effects can be devastating. Around two per cent of people aged over 65 reported financial abuse over the past 12 months, according to a recent survey by the government’s Australian Institute of Family Studies.
More than 40 per cent of those were pressured into handing over their money, possessions or property to their abuser, while 34 per cent had their money or possessions taken without their permission.



“Professional trustees can be really important in helping vulnerable elderly people from being taken advantage of,” Willis says.
“We have the experience and skills to readily identify financial elder abuse through its cloak of kindness.”

Financial elder abuse can have serious ramifications.

“Although thinking about what may happen if you lost capacity or died may feel confronting, it’s an essential part of getting older. It’s imperative that you make appropriate plans for the future management of your finances and assets.”

If you have any concerns about potential or actual elder abuse, please contact 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) to be redirected to the existing phone line service in your state or territory (free call).

* Name changed to ensure privacy.