17 September 2015
Protecting our most vulnerable citizens
State Trustees has applauded the new Powers of Attorney legislation that commenced in Victoria on 1 September 2015, which will make it easier to protect vulnerable members of society from instances of financial abuse.
State Trustees, which is leading the industry response, prioritised the necessary changes to its products and services to ensure they were implemented prior to 1 September, such is the importance of this legislation.
The legislation, which clarified and consolidated the powers and obligations of attorneys appointed under the new enduring power of attorney, has created the role of supportive attorney and a new criminal offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment. The legislation also gives stronger powers of oversight of enduring powers of attorney to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), and established more stringent conditions for witnesses.
State Trustees CEO, Craig Dent, says these changes were so important that the organisation had been preparing for many months in readiness for 1 September.
“We did not want to miss a single day in putting these changes in place. We have been looking forward to this new legislation since it was announced in late 2014, and have placed a strong emphasis on ensuring all of our services were aptly equipped to assist all Victorians with their needs on 1 September.
“Our consultative preparation and attorneyship on boarding services have been adjusted to accommodate new legal forms, and the State Trustees Power of Attorney Kit (Victoria) has been updated with new forms and instructions, including those required to appoint a supportive attorney”.
Mr Dent also believes the legislative changes are a key enabler in protecting an ageing population from incidents of financial elder abuse, particularly from within families.
“These changes are a step in the right direction for ageing Victorians. The new laws provide regulatory authorities, such as VCAT and the courts with additional powers to compensate victims for any loss caused by the exploitation of an enduring power of attorney,” Mr Dent said.
State Trustees is currently investigating more than 150 cases where financial abuse is suspected to have occurred. Often we become involved in these matters when it’s much too late, and at times we are unable to seek recovery of funds or assets.”
State Trustees strongly believes prevention and early intervention is key to making a difference for the ageing Victorian population.
This can be successfully achieved through formal agreements within families, or with the use of independent attorneys or administrators. The newly enacted Powers of Attorney laws now provide a number of options to protect the most vulnerable members of society from exploitation while also ensuring those who abuse their power are held to account for their actions.