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In need of a hero – the threat of elder abuse and what you can do to prevent it

Spiderman, Captain Marvel, The Incredible Hulk – these are but only a few of the many famous creations of the late great comic writer Stan Lee.

What had started for Stan as an office assistant role in the 1930's became the opportunity of a lifetime by the 1960's. Asked to create a new era of superheroes for his employer Marvel, Stan's imagination ran wild, with his creations becoming household names around the world.

Today, the Marvel brand is worth billions and its films are consistently reaching the top of the box office. Avengers endgame was recently announced as the second highest grossing film of all time, just behind James Cameron's "Avatar". 

Unsurprisingly, such success left Stan Lee with significant wealth. This coupled with advancing years and the loss of his wife in 2017 left Stan to rely on others to look after his affairs.

Police in the US have now revealed that one of those individuals, Keya Morgan, took advantage of his business position with Stan and allegedly mishandled over $5m of Stan's assets and wealth.

This is only one of an increasing number of examples of what is now known as elder abuse. So what is elder abuse?

Fundamentally, elder abuse is the misuse of a position of trust that results in harm to an older person. It includes physical, mental and financial abuse, as well as neglect.

How can the risk of abuse be reduced?

As a starting point, individuals should carefully consider who they are appointing in roles of power such as attorney or enduring guardian. If you are not immediately comfortable considering a person to act in such a role for you, chances are that they are not a good choice.

Thought should also be given to appointing more than one person to a position of power so that they can keep each other in check. It is far easier for fraud or abuse to be detected if more than person is involved in your welfare.

Talk to your lawyer about how to best achieve the right attorney and guardian structures for your circumstances.

What if you suspect abuse is occurring?

If you think that elder abuse may be occurring, there are a number of things you can do.

  • If you still have capacity, you can revoke your current documents. Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible to get the revocation in effect quickly.
  • For general assistance, contact the Elder abuse hotline on ‍1800 628 221.
  • For a review of current attorney or guardian arrangements, consider filing an application with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 
  • If you suspect an immediate threat to a person's physical safety, contact NSW Police.

If you need advice on a power of attorney and/or seeking information on enduring guardianship, please contact our estate planning team. 

This article was written by Associate Michael Mobberley. 

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