More than $3m returned to older Aussies

Seniors are being urged to seek free legal advice after more than $3 million was recovered for victims of elder abuse in Victoria and NSW.

Legal Aid NSW said elder abuse came in many forms but was most commonly in a "granny flat" arrangement where the older person has given a significant sum of money to a child in return for the promise of care.

Agreements - verbal or simply written - can be heavily weighed in favour of the child.

"We have had several clients come to us with this issue who are on the verge of homelessness," Mary Lovelock, the senior solicitor at Legal Aid's Elder Abuse Service, said on Monday.

"It can cause significant financial and mental stress for already vulnerable people."

Ms Lovelock had also seen financial abuse involving money misappropriated under Powers of Attorney, unpaid loans and debts fraudulently created in the name of the older person.

With elder abuse sometimes difficult to identify, Ms Lovelock said it was essential seniors spoke to a lawyer to understand their rights.

"We have helped hundreds of seniors recoup money and defend their rights. We are here to support you and everything you say to a solicitor is confidential under client-professional privilege," she said.

Legal Aid NSW recovered $1.9 million for clients in the year to June 2022, amid a 20-per-cent spike in older people seeking assistance.

In the same period, more than 100 older Victorians received a total of $1.5 million after seeking free help from Seniors Rights Victoria.

In one case, a 77-year-old woman's granny flat arrangement came crashing down when her son and his wife split, forcing the sale of the home the trio shared.

The family's forethought to have the agreement documented ensured her initial $350,000 contribution was returned.

But legal advice could have ensured the mother shared in the home's rising value, Seniors Rights Victoria said.

A University of NSW report in July found the majority of reported elder abuse cases are in fact domestic and family violence-related and victims were often reluctant to disclose abuse.

Legal Aid NSW encouraged seniors to contact the Elder Abuse Service or talk to solicitors at the 2023 Seniors Festival Expo on February 2 and 3.

A seniors diary that includes key tips around will planning and other common legal issues will be distributed for free at the expo.

Victorians can call or visit the website of Seniors Rights Victoria while those in Queensland can contact community legal centres or local arms of Relationships Australia Queensland.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

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