8.1 A specific type of financial abuse of older people has been recognised in the context of family agreements. A ‘family agreement’, also known as an ‘assets for care’ arrangement, has a number of forms but is typically made between an older person and a family member. The older person transfers title to their property, or proceeds from the sale of their property, or other assets, to a trusted person (or persons) in exchange for the trusted person promising to provide ongoing care, support and housing. These agreements are typically not put in writing. Where they are written, family agreements may be prepared by one of the parties to the agreement, without legal advice, and the agreement generally does not provide for what happens if there is a breakdown of the relationship.
8.2 While such arrangements can fulfil a useful social purpose, there can be serious consequences for the older person if the promise of ongoing care is not fulfilled or the relationship otherwise breaks down. It may be difficult to establish that a contract was intended, and what its terms were. The other party is likely the registered proprietor of the property, and it may be difficult to establish a specific interest in the land. The older person may be left without money or even a place to live, a situation identified by many stakeholders as financial abuse.
8.3 The ALRC proposes that tribunals be given jurisdiction over disputes within families with respect to residential property that is, or has been, the principal place of residence of one or more of the parties to the assets for care arrangement. Access to a tribunal provides a low cost and less formal forum for dispute resolution—in addition to the existing avenues of seeking legal and equitable remedies through the courts.