31 Aug 2015
The new Powers of Attorney Act 2014 will improve protections against the abuse of powers of attorney, according to the Law Institute of Victoria.
The need for urgent reform was highlighted at the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which heard Victorians unlawfully lost close to $57 million through the abuse of powers of attorney in 2013-14.
LIV President Katie Miller said the legislation, which comes into effect tomorrow, clarifies and consolidates existing laws while expanding VCAT’s jurisdiction so it can order compensation for victims of elder abuse.
In an Australian first, the legislation includes the option of appointing a ‘supportive attorney’, which will allow individuals to retain the power to make their own decisions while appointing an attorney to help them with communication and the collection of information.
“The introduction of a supportive attorney demonstrates that Victoria is leading the way in respecting the human rights of people who may need more help to make decisions, but are not yet ready to give up control of those decisions,” Ms Miller said.
Ms Miller also said that lawyers played a vital role in preventing abuse of powers of attorney by ensuring that their clients had capacity to make a power of attorney.
“A power of attorney is not just about the paperwork. Lawyers look for warning signs that a client may not understand what they are signing and understand how to assess the client’s capacity to make significant decisions like appointing someone to control their affairs,” Ms Miller said.
The LIV has today launched its Capacity Guidelines and Toolkit – available on the LIV website – to assist legal practitioners when assessing a client’s capacity.
Prescribed forms under the new Act are available on the Department of Justice & Regulation website. Further information, including on line forms will be available on the Office of the Public Advocate website from 1 September.