Family agreements

Family agreements are also known as independent or private care agreements, personal services contracts, or lifetime care contracts. A written family agreement ‘which includes private commitments made between elders and their relatives, friends and carers … to accommodate the health care and security needs and wishes of the elder … consistent with the needs and resources and other or competing commitments of friends and family who may decide to assume the position of carer’ (Lewis, 2009) can reduce the risk of asset transfers ‘going wrong’.

Properly drafted family agreements are clearly written and are the end point in a process where family members take time to consider a long list of important matters. Even if an agreement is never drafted, the fact that family members have sat down and discussed things can help them avoid future conflict.

Mediation or dispute settlement services may be able to help parties to negotiate and reach agreement. If you feel you cannot conduct a meeting between family members yourself, then you could consider a referral to such services for mediated discussion (see Resources).

Note that ‘getting things down in writing’, no matter how legally sound, will not remove all potential for abuse in assets for care agreements. These agreements can come to a functional end when the relationship breaks down. The agreement may remain legally sound, and the adult child may say their parent can still live with them, but in reality the parties cannot live together (Hall 2003).