Monday, 7 March 2011

Power of attorney to children

This post is further to my recent post about joint and several attorneys.
A recent survey of 410 Victorians aged from 65 to 100 years old, conducted by Monash University, revealed some interesting statistics. Of the group surveyed some 280 participants had executed a power of  attorney.  Of these, some 170 had appointed one or more children to look after their financial affairs. The others had appointed their spouse or other family members.
Only 5% of the survey group had elected to appoint a professional  person to fulfil this role.
Interestingly the survey also revealed the perception, amongst those canvassed,  that financial abuse of the elderly was not common in the community.
Clearly some work needs to be done to address this incorrect perception and to formulate strategies to protect the elderly from this common type of abuse.
For further information in relation to the survey go to who originally commissioned the survey.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Power of attorney. To appoint or not to appoint ?

Stavro Haralambopoulos was a very wealthy man by the time he began to overlook payment of various  utility and other accounts. When he was finally cajoled into making out a power of attorney he made a bad choice which not only resulted in none of his accounts being paid,  but in the systematic diminution (by theft) of his assets by over half their value. Stavros appointed his Son Con and his Wife Leanne as his attorneys.
Leanne was the slutty Australian girl that Con had married against the wishes of his parents, Brothers and Sisters, who could not understand why Con would not find a suitable Greek girl for marriage. Now, normally I would have absolutely nothing against a slutty Australian girl, but in this instance she did let the team down.
You see, Stavros, when he made out his Power of Attorney, overlooked the fact that his life long Solicitor had inserted the words "Jointly and Severally" into the actual appointment. This meant, of course, that Leanne could sidle off and unilaterally sign cheques, draw funds and sell property without consulting her Husband, or Stavros for that matter.
She began slowly and cautiously, simply paying the odd account of her own so that it would be difficult to tell, upon a cursory examination of the accounts, whether it was one of Stavros' bills or not. Over time she became hugely emboldened, writing out cheques directly to herself, to her children, buying a a new car, televisions and so on. When it was obvious that absolutely no-one was watching she actually gifted some real estate property to her daughter Voula who began erecting a house on the land. Other family members noticed this activity and started asking inconvenient questions.
Leanne's ship had finally hit the sand.
Are the police interested ? Not really, " it was all done strictly on Stavros' own instructions"  you see.
Can we get the money back ?  Yeah right.
Can Stavros amend his will to rectify the situation ? No, his condition has deteriorated into full blown dementia by now.
Hopefully Con and Leanne can be convinced to waive any further entitlement to their Fathers estate, but this remains to be seen.
The moral to the story? Appoint a sole attorney or joint and several attorneys only in rare and exceptional circumstances. Remember Joint AND Several means just that.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Why get married ? Why have a will ?

The law in Victoria has recently changed so that a DeFacto partner of two years or more will get 100% (yes 100 percent) of the estate of their partner who dies without leaving a will.
This sounds fine in theory but how do you tell a real Defacto partner from a housemate or a more casual kind of relationship when your prime witness is dead ?
This is going to be a horribly tricky area in coming years.  Recently I spoke to the Mother of a boy who had been living with his first ever serious girlfriend for about 18 months. The boy and the girlfriend then split up for approximately six weeks, then got back together for another eight months before the boy announces to his Mother that the relationship with his girlfriend is over and he is going to move out. That weekend, before actually moving out,  he is drowned in a boating accident. The girlfriend says that the six week breakup was just them taking some "Space" and that the boy certainly had not told her that it was over.
The boy has purchased his first house, has substantial superannuation and savings, even though he is only 25 years old. His Mother has contributed, obviously, in a substantial way both financially and non finacially, to the boys position. The girl, it seems, was a non contributer and a spendthrift who wants no contact with the Mother and is already in a new relationship.
The girl will probably get the entirety of her former boyfriends estate pursuant to the combined effect of the Administration and Probate Act and the "Relationships Act".