One in five Australians over 65 who live in a private dwelling share it with children, relatives or friends. Yet less than 1% of these older people have formal agreements in place.*
Tabitha O’Shea is a solicitor with Seniors Rights Victoria, who works out of Loddon Campaspe CLC’s office in Bendigo. Tabitha frequently deals with older people for whom this type of arrangement has become a problem.
Tabitha recommends that seniors obtain independent advice and formalise arrangements prior to moving in with family. She says these arrangements are key to protecting an older person’s rights and well-being.
Many older people enter into these living arrangements with the expectation that care and support will be provided by the family member in exchange for assets and money. These arrangements usually start out well but unforeseen situations can arise that lead to the older person being neglected and financially abused.
So what advice would Tabitha give to anybody considering entering into such an arrangement? “We encourage all family members to sit down and discuss the options for accommodation when considering moving in with family. This will enable all concerned to have a clear understanding of the agreement and to protect their respective interests.”
Tabitha cites the case of 89-year-old pensioner, Clem**. Nine years ago Clem made a verbal agreement with his son that he would receive care and accommodation in return for investing in his son’s property. Clem sold his home, gave his son and daughter-in-law a large sum to re-fit and extend their house, and moved in with them.
Recently Clem’s son separated from his wife and moved interstate. Clem’s daughter-in-law is not prepared to honour the original agreement and has asked Clem to move out. Clem has few savings, no protected interest in the property and nowhere else suitable to live.
Tabitha says, “Situations like these can be prevented by formalising the arrangements before they are put in place. Often a solicitor or mediator can assist families in clarifying these arrangements.”
Tabitha will present a free forum “Assets for Care: Protecting Your Interests and Rights” on Tuesday the 14th of May as part of Law Week. The forum is open to seniors and other family members and will provide information on protecting your future, looking after your family relationships and maintaining your independence.
For further information, please contact Elaine Harrington at Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre on (03) 5444 4364.
*1996 ABS Census
** Not his real name