What is the value of my advice?

By Paul Geisel, Accredited Aged Care Specialist

As fellow professionals, I am sure we all at some stage stop and think to ourselves “are we giving advice that adds value”?

Well, I certainly believe I do, and a recent case that I dealt with has prompted me to write this blog post and share my experience.  Obviously the names, dates and places have been changed to protect the innocent, so here goes.

The client is an elderly grazier, with the early onset of dementia, who has been placed in an Aged Care Facility in order to receive the ongoing care and support he needs and deserves. His elderly brother and sister hold the authority under an Enduring Power of Attorney to attend to his future needs, both personal and financial, and after some liaising backwards and forward with them, I came to the conclusion that they have limited interest in their role.

They unfortunately live interstate to their brother and are not computer literate so my contact with them has been via phone and postal mail (where at times I’ve placed great trust in my mail being delivered promptly!)

The farm is managed by a non related Farm Manager. Due to the complexity of this matter and the fact that the grazier had lost a fair degree of his mental capacity, I was asked to take on the role of ‘Project Manager’ by the family, completing all the paperwork for both the Aged Care home and CentrelinkAssessment and sending it to the appropriate entities for action. I am pleased to say that my client moved into care with little disruption, however, the Centrelink story is worth reliving through a TV series (which, thankfully, my client was not, and is still not aware of).

The assessment by Centrelink for the Means Tested Care fee should normally take 2 -3 weeks, however on this occasion, the process for my clienttook nearly 7 months due to ongoing confusion within the Department. I followed the process carefully and despite sending many emails and making numerous phone calls, personally undertaking interviews with local Centrelink management over the 7 month period, the desired outcome was not reached until I went ‘old school’ and penned avery frustrated letter which was sent to the Federal Minister that (thankfully) brought a quick response. I understand and acknowledge that our public service personnel at times have a tough job to do, but I felt that, on this occasion, there was very little care or regard for a prompt and thorough resolution, and more importantly, for my client who was at the mercy of the whole process.

The assessment was made and delivered to me within a week and upon reviewing the information provided carefully, I was able to determine that the assessment was inaccurate as his assets were overstated by a significant amount which would have resulted in a Government fee being levied that would not normally be applicable. The mistake was acknowledged and corrected quickly, which meant I was finally able to complete all my requirements for this client.

So what’s my point to all of this?

There are two main points that stood out for me on this occasion. Firstly, this scenario really made me realise that sometimes, you can’t put a dollar figure on the value of advice.  Fortunately on this occasion, my client had someone that was fighting the good fight for him. I know the ins and outs of the industry, what the process should be and how long it should take, what the figures should look like after doing all the calculations, and question things when they don’t add up.  I was the one who became frustrated at times and was determined to get it sorted out. My frustrations were merely a reminder that I am still passionate about what I do, and I don’t give up until I get the fair outcome my client deserves.

What concerned me was, if someone is trying to do this by themselves, how do they navigate through it and will they know what is correct, or what needs to be questioned and reviewed?

When it comes to making really important life decisions, I am a firm believer in engaging the right person/professional within the identified industry. On this occasion, the over assessment by Centrelink would have meant an overstated Means Tested Care Fee which probably would not have been identified by the client or his attorneys.

Secondly, when making a Will and appointing an Executor or appointing Attorneys under an Enduring Power of Attorney, make sure they are able, capable, contactable and willing to act on your behalf. It will enable for decisions and relevant actions to be carried out promptly and efficiently.

For any queries regarding the above information, contact Paul Geisel, Aged Care Specialist on 07 3721 4403 or paulg@financialadvicematters.com.au.