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Formal family agreements will protect older people

Discrimination Age Discrimination
Family agreements (also known as ‘assets for care’ agreements) are formal legal documents that protect the financial rights of older people

Age Discrimination Commissioner the Hon. Dr Kay Patterson AO has welcomed today’s announcement that the Federal Government is removing a disincentive for older people to put in place formal ‘family agreements’.

Family agreements (also known as ‘assets for care’ agreements) are formal legal documents that protect the financial rights of older people when they contribute property, proceeds from a property sale or other assets to a family member in exchange for long term care, support and housing.

They ensure that, if there is a breakdown in the relationship between an older person and their family members, there is evidence that the older person contributed to the home.

The Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) 2017 Report Elder Abuse: A National Legal Response identified formal and legally enforceable family agreements as a measure that would help prevent elder abuse.

“Financial elder abuse is on the rise during COVID-19 so making it easier to formalise arrangements to protect older people is important,” said Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson AO.

“I’ve heard of too many cases where an older person has contributed significant money to build a ‘granny flat’ or extension to their children’s home, on a verbal understanding that they will have accommodation and be cared for in exchange – but if the relationship breaks down it can have devastating effects, and can even leave the older person homeless.

“When it comes to preventing financial elder abuse, family agreements, along with enduring documents, play a vital role in ensuring that an older person’s wishes and best interests are protected.

“The vital next step to reduce elder abuse is for the Council of Attorneys General to implement the other Australian Law Reform Commission recommendations on powers of attorney. I will continue to advocate strongly for this.”

The Australian Institute of Family Studies says it is likely that between 2% and 14% of older Australians experience elder abuse in any given year, with financial abuse the most prevalent form.

On 1 October 2020, the Commission launched an elder abuse awareness campaign, with a video which raises awareness of the signs of elder abuse. You can watch the campaign video on the Commission’s website.

If you experience, witness or suspect elder abuse, you can call the National Elder Abuse phone line for support on 1800ELDERHelp, 1800 353 374.