Publications - Estate planning

Power of Attorney Accountability

We have seen situations where people with injuries or illnesses have been taken advantage of by their attorneys. It is sickening and disheartening to think someone entrusted with the affairs of another would take advantage of them at such a time, but it is more common than one would expect.

It is, however, a situation that does not need to go unchecked.

Just because an individual appoints an attorney, that is not the end of the matter. If it is suspected that the person in a position of vulnerability is being mistreated in any way, there are ways to not only report the attorney’s conduct, but to also have that conduct monitored and assessed.

This is where the Office of the Public Guardian (previously the Adult Guardian) comes in. Among other duties and powers, the Public Guardian holds the power to review appointments of attorneys when there is reason to believe a vulnerable adult is being exploited, abused or neglected.

The need for this service has arguably become more important with our “aging population” and improvements to medicine which are helping our elderly live longer than previous generations.

Elder law is an important area of law with many legal practitioners taking a keen interest in pursuing the rights of the elderly.

In the event a person is vulnerable due to disability or incapacity, it is important for bystanders to take action to seek the best outcome for that person. Similarly, if you know of an elderly person or a person suffering a disability that needs assistance and has not already appointed an attorney, there are also ways through the Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunal to have someone appointed as a guardian and/or administrator. This is not always a straightforward task, so it is advisable to seek legal assistance in making such applications.

Often in situations where you are concerned for a person who is suffering, it is hard to know where to turn first. Guidance is certainly provided through private law firms, certain organisations and the public system. It is good to have another person who is not emotionally attached to the situation to help you step through the process, consider all avenues, and assist in solving the problem. You can then put the best interests of the vulnerable person first, and arrive at a positive outcome.

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