How to protect your assets when moving in with family
'SELL up your house Mum so we can use the money to build a granny flat or we'll buy a bigger house so all of us can live together and we will look after you for the rest of your life.'
Has this been said to you? Did you known how to respond?
It's possible to this family arrangement to work well but, in some cases, it can go horribly wrong.
Problems arise when:
- The situation doesn't work between family members.
- The older person's name is not on the property title.
- There is nothing in writing to prove the money was handed over, or the agreed conditions for the use of that money, such as, was it a gift, a loan, a return of funds if the situation doesn't work.
Seniors Rights Victoria manager Jenny Blakey said some of the situations where this family arrangement hasn't worked for the older family member are:
- The children become abusive and the person may find they are not welcome in the house and get pushed out.
- They may be expected to become the resident babysitter while the parents work and they don't really have a life of their own.
- The family may divorce and the assets are split up and the money disappears.
- Their health care needs may get greater and they don't have money to pay for the quality care.
- The money was used in a business that then goes bankrupt.
- Family social problems drain the money away until it disappears.
It can be incredibly difficult to raise concerns about what is proposed with family members even when the family are on good terms.
But, if nothing is said, then potentially family relationships and the older person's future wellbeing will be at risk.
Ms Blakely recommended that anyone thinking of entering a shared-home environment with family members should consider the following:
- Get independent legal and accountancy advice. Don't use your child's lawyer and accountant, and try to avoid having your child at the meetings to avoid conflict of interest issues.
- Talk to the family about the arrangement; living location and standard, bills, food, cooking, cleaning, friends visiting, child-minding, property title if applicable and health care over a period of time.
- Write it all down and get the family members to sign this agreement.
- Keep a written record of all financial and legal arrangements between you and your family, and store those records in a secure location.
The same type of considerations need to be put in place if you are planning on loaning money to a family member or using your home to help a family member secure a loan.
"It's getting something that reflects what the older person has contributed so they don't lose it," Ms Blakey said.
Other protections that can be put in place for later in life are giving someone you fully trust your power of attorney and making or updating a will.
For more details on caring for your assets, go to https://seniorsrights.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Care-For-Your-Assets.pdf
For professional advice, it is recommended contacting a community centre, Elder Abuse support service, or a lawyer and accountant who is independent of the family members.
State and territory contacts for information and help:
- ACT Older Persons Abuse Prevention Referral and Information Line (APRIL) 02 6205 3535.
- NSW Elder Abuse Helpline 1800 628 221.
- NT Police 131 444.
- QLD Elder Abuse Prevention Unit 1300 651 192.
- SA Aged Rights Advocacy Service Alliance for the Prevention of Elder Abuse 08 8232 5377 (Adelaide), 1800 700 600 (rural).
- TAS Elder Abuse Helpline 1800 441 169.
- VIC Seniors Rights Victoria 1300 368 821.
- WA Advocare Inc. 1300 724 679 (Perth), 1800 655 566 (rural).