Ask Paul: Our elderly relative is running up credit card debt
How do we protect an elderly family member from financial ruin? She is on the age pension, owns her own unit (money was bequeathed to fund it) but has little to no savings.
While she's led a basic life to date, by necessity, her mental state has been diminishing in recent years, which unfortunately has led to an increase in erratic behaviour and spending.
We believe she's taken out multiple credit cards, purchased a variety of items on store credit, not paid her council rates for years, and had work completed at the unit by numerous trades, but has no intention or ability to pay the amounts owing.
We've tried speaking to her about it all and get told it's none of our business.
The family have bailed her out a number of times already, but are unable to continue to do so.
Is there a way to notify national credit agencies, or freeze her credit, so no new debts can be accumulated?
We're also concerned she'll turn to secondary (less forgiving) lenders and she'll lose the unit. Is there a way to protect that too? - Colin
Crikey, Colin, this is a tough one. All I can do is to tell you what I would do in this situation.
Mental capacity is a really complex issue and a family member losing control of money is rarely happy to be told about this. As you say, it leads to conflict and much angst.
So, I'd be meeting a solicitor experienced in this issue.
Clearly, as the family has "bailed her out" a few times and will not do so anymore, things are out of control. A solicitor may talk to you about your state's or territory's trustee and guardian and things like a financial management order.
Obviously, any family would prefer to help their own with a power of attorney and so on, but it seems this is not working.
Please talk to a solicitor. These situations simply never get better unless strong action is taken.
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