Tougher laws on paid carers and powers of attorney needed to protect the elderly from abuse
30 November 2020
Leading law firm Maurice Blackburn is urging states and territories to consider introducing rules to ban paid carers from being used as powers of attorney, describing it as an important safeguard against elder abuse.
The push comes as new laws take effect in Queensland from November 30 that says a person cannot be appointed as your enduring power of attorney if they have been a paid carer for you within the past three years.
Besides Queensland, Victoria is the only other state with laws that prohibit a paid carer from being appointed as your enduring power of attorney, but the Victorian rule only applies to current paid carers.
An enduring power of attorney is a legal document in which a person appoints someone to make important financial and personal decisions on their behalf. The power continues if and when the person is unable to make decisions on their own.
Andrew Simpson, national head of wills and estates at Maurice Blackburn, said there was considerable trust invested in an enduring power of attorney, and any breach of that trust could have significant consequences.
“A power of attorney is one of the most important documents you’ll ever make. If you lose capacity, that person will potentially have complete control over all decisions relating to you and your affairs.
“Giving a paid carer power over the affairs of the vulnerable person they are paid to look after is in our view a dangerous blurring of professional and personal lines that increases the risk of financial abuse.
“We know there have been cases where a paid carer holding a person’s power of attorney has misused that power for their own benefit, such as taking money, transferring assets and incurring debt.
“We acknowledge the vast majority of paid carers do incredible work in looking after older and more vulnerable people in our community. But unfortunately there will always be some who will exploit that position of trust for personal gain.
“We welcome Queensland’s move to tighten restrictions around the use of paid carers as powers of attorney, and we call on all states and territories to follow Queensland and Victoria’s lead to help protect our elderly from abuse.”
Mr Simpson said if a person did not have any family or close friends they trusted to be a power of attorney, they could appoint an independent public trustee company in that role.