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This article was written by Phillipa Shaw

The number of people aged over 65 years is predicted to grow to over one million and to make up more than 20% of the population by 2020. New Zealand’s aging population has resulted in new and complex legal issues. Longer lifespans, blended families, sunset relationships and a variety of housing and care choices, requires tailored legal solutions and expert advice.

The need to protect the vulnerable in society has led to detailed legislative requirements for setting up enduring powers of attorney documents. Rather than just nominating an attorney the person must consider how their attorney may act, the extent of their authority, who they must consult and who may be provided with information.

The growing cost of rest home care to the government has led to a rigorous implementation of policies under the Social Security Act 1964 when assessing applicants’ assets and income. The prevalence of homes held in Family Trusts and the gifting programs undertaken as part of this process impact on the assessment also. Court challenges to the interpretation of the Social Security Act, mean that the legal landscape is evolving all the time.

The difficulty in financing the purchase of a first home has seen many parents looking for ways to assist their children while still protecting their assets. The prevalence of multi-generational households due to a variety of factors including a shortage of housing, or the desire to care for aging parents, creates another set of legal issues. Setting out intentions and agreements in advance in a deed can help avoid misunderstandings and disputes in the future.

Forming new relationships later in life creates another layer of complexity. Often couples are not aware of the sharing provisions in the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 and how soon they apply. Blended families, for those who enter second or subsequent relationships, create issues around succession planning and inheritance. There are other issues to consider in the event that one of the partners requires rest home care and the impact of the assessment of the assets of the parties.  

Advising on these growing and complex legal issues appropriately requires a specialist focus. Harmans recognised and responded to this in the International Year of the Older Person in 1999 setting up an Elderly Services and Seniors Law team. Some 19 years later Harmans Senior’s Team remains focussed on keeping up to date with the latest developments and specialising in assisting with all aspects of elder law issues in a friendly and caring manner.

By planning for the future you may avoid stress, uncertainty and unintended consequences. Give Phillipa Shaw a call on 352-2293 to arrange an appointment to discuss your situation.

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