Your selected location:
  1. Home
  2. /
  3. HHG Articles
  4. /
  5. Beware Financial Abusers
9 Apr 2018

A rise in cases of financial abuse proves that seniors in all stages of frailty must implement appropriate safeguards against seemingly trustworthy family members or friends. It’s becoming a growing national issue.

Financial exploitation of the elderly can stem from a person who holds an enduring power of attorney (EPA) misusing the power entrusted in them. An enduring power of attorney is a legal document enabling you to appoint a person or agency to act on your behalf, particularly when you can no longer make decisions yourself. As your vulnerability increases — whether from age, illness or manipulation by supposed loved ones — so, too, does the need for a trusted attorney.

An EPA is a valuable tool for the elderly, but one also susceptible to misuse. Granting an individual power of attorney effectively gives them control over your money and other assets, in the hopes they will be well-managed should you become incapable of doing so. Attorneys can assist with your day-to-day finances, as well as manage your bills and property. However, in the wrong hands, this power equates to a blank cheque and a veritable buffet of assets — both breeding grounds for financial elder abuse.

Seniors should mitigate the risks of financial exploitation by following a number of rules:

In choosing a relative or friend to take on EPA duties, you should ensure they’re trustworthy and live within proximity of you. Truth and proximity are important for the attorney to actively and effectively manage your financial affairs. They should be competent to deal with financial and property-related matters and to maintain accurate records of any transactions made through the EPA.

They must be free of any conflict with the concerned person’s family or friends. It is essential to appoint the right person. Your choice of an attorney is critical because this person could come to have complete control over all your assets. You should remove all traces of sentimentality from your mind when asking this key question: “Who should I trust with such a responsibility?”. The ultimate qualification for a choice of an attorney is an absolute absence of conflict, namely someone who doesn’t stand to gain from the management of your affairs.

You should consider appointing more than one attorney. Look at appointing two people as joint attorneys. They must act together and agree on all decisions to be made, rather than only one person acting on their own. Appointing joint attorneys will provide a system of “checks and balances” on each appointed attorney, by the other.

EPA can be limited. You have the ability to effectively limit the power of your attorney. You may do this by nominating the transactions that they do or do not have the authorisation to conduct. For example, you may elect that the attorney cannot enter into transactions where they are in a position of conflict, including the making of gifts or the sale of certain assets.

Appoint a substitute attorney. Appointing a substitute attorney gives you the added security of having a backup in case the person or agency that you have appointed can no longer act on your behalf.

Consider appointing a disinterested third party to act as your attorney. If no family member is well suited or available to take such a position public services are available, for whom foul play would constitute a career-threatening crime. Such organisations have the requisite know-how and are free from any conflict of interest. This may provide an alternative to surrendering financial responsibility to a family member, no matter how innocent their intentions may be.

Seniors who are thinking of nominating an enduring power of attorney should always consult with a qualified professional who is acting solely on their behalf. If one family member is appointed as attorney, other family members should be notified, although this isn’t a legal requirement.

When an EPA is enacted, the right people and institutions need to be notified. This includes banks and any other person directly involved in financial dealings with the donor. This does not happen automatically. EPAs can take effect immediately or at a later date, for example when you no longer have the testamentary capacity to make financial decisions on your own accord, as determined by medical evidence and the State Administrative Tribunal. Most people elect to have their EPA take effect immediately, to avoid any delay and administrative burden of obtaining an order from the State Administrative Tribunal. However, there may be a good reason to delay the start of a power of attorney, depending on the circumstances.

You should regularly review your EPA to assess whether the nominated attorney remains suitable. You may revoke an enduring power of attorney at any time, so long as you still have the legal capacity to do so. In some circumstances, they can also be revoked by the SAT. Every power of attorney relationship in WA is subject to audit and supervision by a simple application to the State Administrative Tribunal 

Written by Lucy Ferreira, Associate at HHG Legal Group.

Published in The West Australian on 9 April 2018.

This is general information only and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you are concerned for yourself or a member of the community, please contact HHG Legal Group on we.help.people@hhg.com.au to book a 15-minute appointment at our free legal assistance clinics.

HHG Legal Group offers high service levels, without cost concerns. How? By pioneering a genuine, simple ‘client satisfaction guarantee’. If you aren’t happy, fees will be reduced.

*This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. Please consult one of our experienced Legal Team for specific advice relevant to your situation.

Supporting Western Australians for more than 100 years

"Always fast and thorough service. Thank you"


My circumstances at the time I made contact with HHG were dire following my argument being rejected by two no win no fee firms. Following my initial meeting with HHG's employment law team I was left feeling extremely positive by the response and concern shown by HHG in regards to their support of my argument along with their preparedness to pursue an outcome on my behalf.

I accept the fact that nobody really wins in these cases (mental health/ workplace) however the end result was what would be considered most favourable and far in excess of what would have been achieved had I not sought the advice from HHG.

I have no hesitation in recommending HHG to anyone caught up in the messy circumstances I found myself in at the time.

Great advice and five-star commitment to their client!!"


"Thank you for such great assistance with the transaction of Flying Domestics on behalf of Lorna Good. It has been such a pleasure to work with the HHG Legal Group and I look forward to working with you in the future."


"Simon Creek and his team were at all times empathic, professional and confident.  My matter needed to be addressed within a pressing time frame, and their availability at short notice and contact after hours was much appreciated.  It caused me considerable stress, but having such a thoroughly reliable and competent team to call on helped me to feel in control. Although I hope not to need their services again in future, I would be confident in doing so!"


"A good outcome is what we can expect.  A great outcome is a sign of a company which does the very best for their clients. A very big thank you to Daniel Morris for showing empathy towards my small and much needed legal action.

To HHG Legal Group, thank you for a great outcome.  I would recommend your company to anyone seeking legal services."


"Your support this morning was amazingly kind, not to mention your totally reassuring competence, knowledge and wisdom that you used on my behalf.  It was extremely reassuring to have your knowledgeable support, and I particularly appreciated your real and obvious kindness to me. It means so much at a very difficult time. I'm so grateful to you."

Family Law Client

"Janene was very professional and we established a good rapport quickly. The subject of death and wills can be quite confronting to deal with, however, Janene's approach was soft and accommodating."


"A big thank you to HHG for their professional service, continued support, and wide range of legal knowledge. Our clients have given us nothing but kind words regarding HHG Legal Group and so we have no hesitation in referring and recommending Simon Creek and HHG Legal Group for their outstanding services and legal expertise."


"Simon is a friendly and practical legal advisor. I have received great feedback from the clients I have referred to him and his team at HHG Legal Group."


"Over the last few years, I have been impressed by Simon’s legal ability, management skills, entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and people skills. He appears to be that rare breed of lawyer – both knowledgeable and commercial."


"Our family has been a client of HHG Legal Group over many years.  Business has included drawing up of wills for three generations and preparing of probate for my father in law. I would have no hesitation in recommending HHG Legal Group to anyone requiring such services."


"You should be congratulated for the manner in which your staff address clients and we found our dealings with your company, once again a very pleasant experience and we would like to truly thank you for your efforts."

Steve and Jane

"HHG Legal were absolutely fantastic. Extremely responsive and brought calm to our chaotic family situation through their knowledge and caring attitude. Extremely professional from our very first contact with them and they expertly guided our family though the required legal process over almost a 12 month period."


"Fantastic team! They really care about their client. Tim Colcutt is a 'go that extra mile' guy who gives his client his all. I can't recommend HHG and Tim enough."


"I had a fantastic lawyer in Matthew Lilly. He helped me out a great deal with good, sound advice in a friendly, professional manner. First class, thanks Matthew"


"Marine Plant Systems has been working with HHG Legal Group for a few years now and they continually provide first-class service. Their professional advice has been invaluable to our company."


"We were kept up to date at all times. Pricing was always updated over the time period so we remained "in budget". Personal access to someone whenever I had questions. All in all a great experience without too much fuss."


"Good service you can count on."


"HHG Legal Group has provided outstanding support as I have taken the journey of buying a business, their professionalism is beyond reproach. Their assistance throughout the Due Diligence process has been invaluable, I would fully recommend them."


"Very friendly and efficient service - what a pleasure working with Matthew."


"I highly recommend Daniel from HHG Lawyer in Mandurah. When dealing with a complicated legal property matter recently I was extremely impressed by Daniel's honesty and integrity and the legal advice I received. I am very happy with the service from HHG Legal."


Select your location:

Please select your nearest office location so we can show you the most relevant information.