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Law change brings more protection

Age Concern New Zealand media release 25 September 2008

Law change brings more protection

The picture of a ruthless friend or relative bulldozing an older person into signing an Enduring Power of Attorney to get control over their care and finances has just got less likely.

Age Concern New Zealand welcomes extra protection which will be built into Enduring Powers of Attorney when the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Amendment Act 2007 comes into force tomorrow.

People making an Enduring Power of Attorney will be better informed, and those granted the power will be more accountable. Everyone's roles and responsibilities are spelled out more clearly.

A new requirement for independent legal advice gives protection for people setting up EPAs. This will make it harder to bulldoze reluctant or confused people into signing.

Age Concern supports the Enduring Power of Attorney concept and says that everyone from 18 to 118 should have them.

"If people don't have an EPA and suddenly can't make decisions, the legal position can be very tangled. It's in everyone's interests to avoid this," Age Concern New Zealand Chief Executive Ann Martin says.

The law changes have come, in part, because of submissions by Age Concern.

"The changes will help us to fight against abuse of older people who are no longer able to make decisions themselves," Ann Martin says. "We have seen cases in which the attorney, the person trusted to make decisions in the older person's best interests, has used their power to commit financial abuse or to neglect their care."

For the first time, Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Service workers are recognised in the law as people who can challenge attorneys' decisions.

“For this protection, people will need to meet the legal costs associated with establishing the EPA. However, Community Law centres will provide legal advice without charge and solicitors, who already draft many wills for free, may extend this to include EPAs. Others may decide to do so as part of their total service package.”

Local Age Concern offices have a new free information pamphlet available on the revised EPAs.


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