Lawyers are calling for children’s abuse and exploitation of their elderly parents to be made an offence.
Lawyers are calling for children’s abuse and exploitation of their elderly parents to be made an offence.

How greedy children are cashing in on dementia

GREEDY children are cashing in on dementia by tricking elderly parents into handing over the family home, before abandoning them in aged care.

More than 1500 elderly Queenslanders have lodged complaints with the state government-funded Elder Abuse Helpline in the past year.

Lawyers are demanding tougher state legislation to make "exploitation" of the elderly a crime.

The Queensland Law Society warned yesterday of a surge in cases of elder abuse by money-hungry relatives ripping off frail family members.

Lawyers are calling for children’s abuse and exploitation of their elderly parents to be made an offence.
Lawyers are calling for children’s abuse and exploitation of their elderly parents to be made an offence.

"A lot of children steal their parents' money and it's really disturbing,'' Brisbane lawyer Brian Herd, the deputy chairman of the society's elder law committee, told The Courier-Mail yesterday.

"I call it the mafiosa syndrome because it all happens within the family.''

Mr Herd, a partner of CRH Law, called on the State Government to toughen the law to make exploitation of elderly people a crime, as it was too difficult to prosecute people for fraud when they had been "gifted'' money or property.

"The law isn't good enough,'' he said.

"We send company directors and accountants and lawyers to jail for breach of trust and we send people to jail for abusing animals, but we don't send adult children to jail for abusing their parents.

"There's no law called 'exploitation of an elderly person', and there definitely should be.''

Mr Herd said a cancer-stricken 76-year-old woman sued her daughter after being "thrown out into the street''.

The mother had sold her house to move in with the daughter, but "fell out with the son-in-law and was thrown out in the street after three months'', Mr Herd said.

"She'd given all her money to the daughter so she had to go into a shelter,'' he said.

"She was suffering from cancer, and died halfway through the legal proceedings.''

 

Brian Herd, an elder law specialist, with CRH Lawyers.
Brian Herd, an elder law specialist, with CRH Lawyers.

Bennett & Philp lawyer Charlie Young said older Australians with dementia "are very much susceptible to greedy relatives taking advantage of them''.

"It's just greed,'' he said. "People know they can take advantage of mum and dad.''

Mr Young said one elderly man had given his son $70,000 to pay for an extension to the son's home, so he could move in.

"After it was completed the son told the dad to nick off and ceased all contact,'' he said.

Mr Young urged older Australians to seek legal advice and put agreements in writing before "gifting'' property or money to relatives.

He said it was common for ageing parents to agree to hand over their home or money to adult children, in return for lifelong care.

"There are a large number of cases where children take the property or money and are not fulfilling their side of the agreement to care for parents,'' he said.

 

Charlie Young, Bennett & Philp lawyers
Charlie Young, Bennett & Philp lawyers

"We're seeing so many instances of children with power of attorney draining the parent's bank account, because they see it as their early inheritance and an entitlement to be taken.''

Minister for Seniors Coralee O'Rourke called on Queenslanders to report financial abuse to the government-funded Elder Abuse Helpline.

"We can no longer allow elder abuse to be swept under the carpet and treated as a private matter that should be kept in the family,'' she said.

Elder Abuse Helpline 1300 651 192



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