The Public Trustee is urging Queenslanders to consider appointing more than one attorney in their enduring power of attorney document.
According to The Public Trustee of Queensland and CEO, Samay Zhouand, this small change can add an extra level protection against financial elder abuse in a time Queenslanders may need it most.
The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) investigates reports of abuse involving Queenslanders living with impaired decision-making capacity and as at 30 June 2021, there had been a 27 percent increase of active abuse investigations compared with last year.
Mr Zhouand said 78 percent of the total reports of abuse factored instances of financial abuse or exploitation and was the most commonly experienced form of abuse in Australia.
Mr Zhouand said many of cases of financial abuse investigated by the Public Trustee involve the misappropriation of a person’s funds.
“We have investigated cases in which the appointed attorney has syphoned off funds from individuals, such as their own family members, for their own personal gain.
“Some cases involve a perpetrator using their role as the enduring power of attorney as a way to financially exploit older people or their close relations.
“This is a gross misuse of trust,” he said.
In Australia, elder abuse is considered to be vastly under disclosed and under reported. This is often due to the complex and intimate relationships older people experiencing abuse have with their perpetrators.
“It’s vital to have advance life plans in place, although it is just as critical to ensure careful considerations are made when appointing an attorney.
“It is important that you consider your attorney or attorneys will, in all circumstances, act honestly, with reasonable skill and care, and will keep accurate records,” he said.
Mr Zhouand, said an attorney or attorney’s role in an enduring power of attorney document is powerful and carried significant responsibilities.
“When Queenslanders appoint more than one attorney, the attorneys are required to make decisions together.
“This provides an extra safeguard to protect you and your financial future.
“It also increases transparency regarding decisions made and helps to reduce the opportunity for exploitation or abuse,” Mr Zhouand said.
If you witness violence or are worried that an older person is at immediate risk, call the police on triple zero (000).
Queenslanders are encouraged to visit the Public Trustee website for more information – www.pt.qld.gov.au