Australian Lawyers See Opportunity in the Ageing Society

Dubbed “elder law”, specialists in the field say come 2011 the niche area will be booming, with lawyers in demand to solve a range of complex family dilemmas including whether elderly parents have the capacity to make their own decisions.

This article in The Australian explains that baby boomers will produce more work for lawyers than their parents because of the greater complexity of their lives. And this will not be confined to the traditional areas of power of attorney and wills.

“Compacto agreements” for example would establish contractual arrangements between elderly people who were companions rather than partners in a defacto-style relationship. Older clients were also increasingly demanding trusts be established for their pets because of concerns they would not be looked after when they died. There was also demand for “impoverished planning” because clients wanted to be eligible for even $1 of the aged pension due to other benefits that flowed.

Family agreements to establish how elderly parents would be cared for were also becoming more common. Herd said he had one family who established an agreement that saw a daughter get paid to care for her mother because the family did not want to place her in aged care.

Issues surrounding the capacity of an older person was one of biggest areas of elder law. For example disputes could arise in families over whether their parents had the capacity to make their own decisions and whether an enduring power of attorney should be appointed.

The economic downturn had also seen an increase in elder abuse as some children saw their parents as being the solution to their money problems.

Many lawyers hold prejudices against older people, including that they are tight with money and seek legal advice over minor and trivial matters. But on the contrary, many older people had many advantages as clients including paying promptly, always being on time and being prepared to pay for quality and reliability.

I’ve said before, and will say again, the ageing of society will deliver challenges and opportunities to just about every profession and business…. even lawyers.

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