WillBits

Power of Attorney

Seniors often appoint a family member as their power of attorney (POA). The POA must interact with a large cohort of financial institutions and government agencies, including banks, insurers, superannuation funds, Land Titles Office, real estate agents, hospitals, aged care facilities, among many others. A person granted the POA must maintain records of their activities, but often the wrongdoing is only discovered incidentally. Institutions have a substantial burden to duty of care to minimise fraudulent activity, but they are hamstrung by the antiquated paper based system. There is no easy way for these institutions to confirm the veracity and currency of the POA document. Each time the holder of the POA needs to conduct a transaction they must provide the paper document in person and provide proof of their identity. This is time consuming and cumbersome, and is enormously difficult if the POA lives in a different jurisdiction, or lives at a distance or in a different time zone.

Without a centralised national register of powers of attorney that is authoritative and easy to use and access, the risk of malicious activity and financial elder abuse is very significant. Currently, this can occur if multiple people have been appointed at different times, or there are multiple versions of documents in circulation. Even more worrying is that if the older person is taken interstate, the original POA doesn’t apply anymore, and the abuser can do whatever they like.

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