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Law Institute of Victoria calls for stamp duty reform to protect elder financial abuse victims

Law Institute of Victoria calls for stamp duty reform to protect elder financial abuse victims

By LIV Media

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Victims of elder financial abuse should be protected from paying stamp duty on property transfers when they recover their stolen real estate, according to the Law Institute of Victoria (‘LIV’).

LIV President Stuart Webb has written to Treasurer Tim Pallas seeking amendment to the Duties Act 2000 (Vic) in circumstances where the abuse of an older person results in transfer of property to a third party, usually a person exerting undue influence over the older person.

“We are proposing that a stamp duty exemption needs to be made to protect vulnerable older people, who may be subject to the duty twice,” Mr Webb said.

“Not only does the abuser steal the older person’s property but often also raids the older person’s bank account to pay the stamp duty.  If the older person is lucky, the property can eventually be returned but the older person will then have to again pay stamp duty when it’s transferred back”.

Mr Webb said that the LIV had been contacted by lawyers with many examples of elder financial abuse relating to property.

These include:

  • A lawyer who acted for a 93-year-old client with cognitive decline living in residential aged care. The client’s son took her out for coffee, and obtained her signature on a transfer of land form. A VCAT appointed administrator became involved and the property was transferred back. The property was worth more than $2 million and attracted considerable stamp duty, charged to the victim, which was not waived.
  • A lawyer acted for a 72-year-old client on a Centrelink aged pension. Her son was a property developer and suggested he could improve the property. She transferred her property into his name for no money, and she paid the stamp duty. The matter was resolved; however, the elderly client had no choice but to pay the stamp duty again on the transfer of the property back into her name.

“These are cases where elderly clients are disadvantaged by having to pay stamp duty after an inappropriate property transfer, even if lawyers are successful in having the property returned to the elderly person,” Mr Webb said.

He said there was already an exemption under the Duties Act for transfers to property made solely because of a breakdown of a marriage or domestic relationship with supporting evidence. This could be used to create a similar elder financial abuse exemption.

The LIV has drafted a suggested exemption provision.

Letters to Treasurer 5 July and 20 November 2019


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