I care – therefore I am entitled aren’t I?

Reading time: 2 min(s)

What is the price for martyrdom in a family? This is becoming an increasingly common question being asked by the ‘martyr’ children in families.

As aged care becomes more expensive, families are internalising the caring arrangements for their ageing parents and keeping it ‘in house’ as opposed to ‘out house’. Caring for parents is becoming ‘the‘ family business of the 21st Century.

It can take many forms – from full blown care, such as an adult child moving in with a parent to care for them, to simply taking mum or dad to medical appointments. Some children’s contributions can border on the heroic. Other children can be more bystanders. Still others, living in Dubai, just can’t help.

Even though many caring children may be eligible for a carer’s allowance or pension, parents are often moved to compensate their ‘martyr’ child for all they have done for them in their later lives. They are known to do such things as:

  • Transfer assets to the child when the parent is still alive (eg in a granny flat arrangement)
  • Promise to change their Will to give more to the caring child
  • Pay a child to look after them.

But, what if the parent doesn’t do any of these things (or even if they do) – does the caring child have any recourse to some compensation or better compensation after their parent has died? After all, some of these children may have to give up their job to provide the care, or worse, their marriage.

As the law currently stands, a caring child might consider, for example:

  1. If the parent’s Will did not compensate them but the parent had previously promised to do so, trying to enforce that promise in a Court after the parent has died; or
  2. Bringing a challenge to the parent’s Will seeking better provision from the estate (over and above the entitlements of the other children); or
  3. Challenging a superannuation death benefit payout or a greater share of it.

Except for lawyers, none of these options are attractive involving, as they do, potentially acrimonious legal proceedings and the implosion of the broader family unit. Not the sort of legacy a parent wants to leave.

We think that the law is starting to recognise the contributions of the caring child more and more especially where a parent has failed to do so. We may well be moving to a situation where the law will acknowledge the caring child in some form of compensation for their care.

If your family is at the caring crossroads, it can really help to be forearmed with the options available and how a parent might want to acknowledge a child’s contribution (if they do). Having a meeting with us may just clear the air and avoid a future family fiasco.

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.