Financial abuse of elderly parents on the rise as housing becomes more unaffordable
Parents are increasingly being bullied into downsizing prematurely and even threatened with not being able to see their grandchildren if they don’t give their kids an early inheritance to allow them to enter the housing market, it’s been claimed.
Following Fairfax Media’s exclusive report that one in four Gen Y Australians are now relying on an inheritance to be able to afford to buy a house, advocates for older people have come forward to report a marked rise in pressure from families to hand over their money.
“We’re seeing this kind of inter-generational financial abuse really growing,” says Meagan Lawson, CEO of the Council on the Ageing (COTA) NSW. “It starts as, ‘Can I borrow …?’ But over time it becomes quite abusive where people feel they have to give money to keep harmony in the family.
“I think it’s a relatively new thing, probably because of problems of housing affordability, but this is where the growth is in the financial abuse of older people.”
This “inheritance impatience” can have dire consequences on their lives too, Ms Lawson says. Some are forced into retirement villages too early, some are coerced into complying with their children’s wishes through withdrawal of access to grandchildren and others are “persuaded” to move in with family, sell their homes and hand over the proceeds.
When this goes wrong, it can even, in some cases, lead to homelessness, advises lawyer Faith Hawthorne.
The revelations follow the publication of a survey of 1000 Australians commissioned by Slater and Gordon Lawyers, which found that 26 per cent of millennials said they had, or would need to, rely on an inheritance windfall to purchase the home they wanted.
Slater and Gordon associate Lara Nurpuri said that had led to more young people asking their parents to ‘Give me the money!’ as an early inheritance, sometimes creating tensions in the family, or going to court after their parents’ death to fight for a bigger share of the proceeds.
Subscribe to our newsletter
But now an even darker side of the trend is emerging, as professionals who work with older Australians say some parents and even grandparents are suffering terribly from their kids’ greed.
Kerry Marshall, manager of the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit, says the number of calls to the helpline is increasing and, anecdotally, professionals are reporting more cases of kids being after their parents’ money. A growing sense of entitlement, particularly from millennials, where children see themselves as having a right to their parents’ money is also fuelling “inheritance conservation”.
“Here, the adult children want to preserve their parents’ money for themselves, so they aren’t spending any of it on the care of their parents, and we’re seeing a lot of neglect linked to this financial abuse,” Ms Marshall says.
A new pilot program started last week in NSW, after its successful introduction in Victoria two and a half years ago, to have solicitors in healthcare centres where they can counsel older people who tell their doctor they’re having problems.
Justice Connect lawyer Ms Hawthorne says financial abuse by family members is “definitely” the most common type of abuse they’re reporting.
“The most common scenarios are where there’s been misuse of their power of attorney or where an older person sells their property or mortgages it, giving the sales proceeds or the equity in their home to their son or daughter.
“They might do this in the expectation that their child will then be providing care for them in return, but often this isn’t discussed in any detail beforehand, and sometimes it doesn’t happen, or arrangements break down.”
A NSW Legislative Council inquiry into elder abuse last year also found that financial abuse is one of the most common forms of elder abuse.
Among the cases it reported was a granddaughter who tried to transfer her grandmother’s house into her name for $1 in return for a verbal promise of care and a son who transferred his 92-year-old incapacitated mum’s house to himself, also for $1.
This story was first published by Domain by Sue Williams on 27 August, 2017. Read article.
Subscribe to our newsletter