National Power of Attorney reform now!

Article published 21 April 2021

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CPSA is urging state and territory governments to adopt consistent laws on powers of attorney to prevent elder financial abuse.

A power of attorney is a legal document which can allow an individual to grant authority to someone else to make financial decisions on their behalf when they can no longer make decisions on their own.

However, just because a power of attorney is in place does not mean a person can be free from being taken advantage of. The most common perpetrators of financial elder abuse and misuse of powers of attorney are adult children. Even those most trusted can sometimes take advantage of a vulnerable person.

Financial abuse is a serious and far-reaching problem. Elderly people and those with a disability are most at risk.

State and federal Attorneys-General met in late March to consider the creation of a national register of power of attorney instruments. This register would mean that who holds a power of attorney and what that power actually covers, would be in the public domain which is not how it happens now. The register would create an opportunity to bring suspected financial abusers to the attention of authorities.

CPSA is calling on governments across Australia to establish power of attorney laws which are the same across the country with, these laws being backed up by a national power of attorney register which would enable the legitimacy and currency of each power of attorney instrument to be checked. There also needs to be an agency in each state and territory, such as the NSW Ageing and Disability Discrimination Commission, where abuse can be reported.

In 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission report into elder abuse made recommendations in this regard.

In 2019, state and territory Attorneys-General committed to setting baseline minimum standards for powers of attorneys and to create a mandatory national online register of power of attorney instruments.

It is now time that this important reform is delivered.

The introduction of a register will greatly assist in safeguarding older and vulnerable people’s financial status by providing a reliable single source of information to verify the authenticity and currency of an instrument.

It is critically important for our nation that all governments are doing all within their power to help people who are at risk of abuse in our community.

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