Breaking taboo on assets chat could help elderly
Talking about financial arrangements for elderly relatives is often as taboo as discussing death.
This partly explains why many elderly people who have avoided settling legal questions about their assets are left spending their last years penny-pinching after relatives take control of their bank accounts and property, researchers say.
A University of Hong Kong survey polled 3,505 people who were caring for a relative aged 65 or over. Fifty-five per cent of those polled were involved in the relative's financial management, but only 13 per cent of the elderly had written a will and only 2 per cent had signed an enduring power of attorney (EPA) designating responsibility for their finances if they became ill.
This suggested that few people understood how such documents could help families navigate an unavoidable process, said Eric Chui Wing-hong, associate dean of the university's social sciences department.
"If the family, together with the elderly relative, could sit down and draw out an honest plan, it would give everyone a better picture," Chui said.
"These documents can definitely help … prevent unnecessary family disputes and arguments."
City University law professor Rebecca Ong Yoke-chan said Chinese culture was a reason discussion on finances were taboo between children and their elderly parents.
"For some … talking about a will is like wishing that someone would die soon," said Ong.
But the problem could be alleviated by educating the elderly on the legal protection they can get.
Dr Jean Woo, head of the Chinese University's geriatric division at the department of medicine and therapeutics, said it was common for the elderly to be abandoned after family members took control of their assets.
Formally authorising financial assistance could protect the assets of elderly people, she said.