Seniors Legal and Support Service principal solicitor Melissa Seymour-Dearness with Enduring Power of Attorney form.
Seniors Legal and Support Service principal solicitor Melissa Seymour-Dearness with Enduring Power of Attorney form. Alistair Brightman

Families hurt by misuse of Enduring Powers of Attorney

EVERY week Melissa Seymour-Dearness sees families shattered by the misuse of Enduring Powers of Attorney documents.

The principal solicitor for the Seniors Legal Advice and Support Service in Hervey Bay said EPAs can be a valuable legal instrument, but it was important that individuals and their families were aware of exactly what they were signing.

An EPA is a legal document where one person, the principal, authorises another person, the attorney, to act on the principals behalf in the event that they are unable to make health or financial decisions for themselves.

With the documents potentially being fraught with confusion and potential problems, Mrs Seymour-Dearness said the SLASS hopes to "demystify" this complicated topic with free public information sessions across the Fraser Coast later this month.

"Every week we see the devastating repercussions of people, particularly older people, entering into these documents without a proper understanding of the extent of power given to the appointed attorney," she said.

"It can be the case that the attorney can take your house, everything in your bank account and take all our valuables if they go about it in a premeditated and calculated way.

"It's truly awful."

Provisions are available in the document for the power to either come in to affect immediately, or only when the principal is no longer of sound mind.

"That can be a good thing or a bad thing. This means they (the attorney) have immediate financial power," she said.

"Where someone's given immediate financial power, it's not the case that they can take over the decision making for that person if they're still of sound mind, but it does mean that they have the power to do so.

"In some circumstances it can be misused and even though it's illegal, by the time the person's misused the power it can already have caused catastrophic and sometimes irreversible circumstances."

She said if care was not taken in choosing your attorney and setting appropriate limitations, the principal could find themselves with no home and no money due to the actions of a loved one.

Sessions on duties and responsibilities of attorneys will be held later in the year.

Information sessions

  • Wednesday, February 19 at the Burrum Heads Progress Hall, 11am-12pm and the Urangan Community Centre, 2pm-3pm
  • Wednesday, March 5 at the Maryborough Town Hall, 10.30am-11.30am and Tiaro Memorial Hall, 2pm-3pm
  • The public information sessions are free, but bookings are essential on 4124 6863 or admin.slass @bigpond.com

The Seniors Legal and Support Service, at 16 Torquay Rd, Torquay, is managed by the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre and funded by the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services.