Do you have to care for your parents when they need it?

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If you lived in certain American states or some other countries, you would.

In Singapore, for example, there is a law known as “The Maintenance of Parents Act”. It enables a parent, who is 60 years old or over and who can’t support themselves on their own, to claim maintenance from their children who are capable of supporting the parent but are not doing so. Parents can sue their children for financial support, in the form of monthly allowances or a lump-sum payment. The Act also creates a court known as the “Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents” to review applications brought by parents.

In Australia there are no such laws and you may ponder whether there should be.

In the meantime, however, beware – if you do decide to care for your parents but you don’t do it very well, either intentionally or unintentionally, that’s when the law can visit you and there can be consequences including:

  • A criminal offence known as ‘Failing to supply the necessaries of life” to the parent you are taking care of;
  • Other more common criminal offences such as stealing, misappropriation or fraud;
  • Being taken to QCAT to be sacked as your parent’s Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) because you were incompetent, silly or criminal in the way you performed the role; and
  • Being sued by your siblings after your parent has died for what you did or didn’t do when you were your parent’s EPOA.

Some of these recourses fall under the rubric of Elder Abuse involving wilfully bad conduct. However, some bad conduct is not intentional, it can be just incompetent or ignorant.

Whatever the excuse may be, ignorance still does not amount to innocence. The best way to avoid any allegation that you did the wrong thing by your parents is to get advice before you do, or don’t do something.


Brian Herd
Recognised as one of the leading experts in Australia on elder law, aged care, retirement, estate planning and disability and a regular author, broadcaster and popular presenter on many elder law subjects and issues.