Family Forum: Worried Family

Family concerned about grandson’s partner.

QUESTION:

My sister-in-law is extremely worried that the living arrangements of her grandson, who is an invalid pensioner, may present legal problems in the future.

He lives in a rental unit with an unemployed female friend in her 40s. Both of their names are on the lease. They share expenses. She is a chronic alcoholic and gambler.

When she was living with her parents, she lived much the same way. Her mother died of cancer and, on her deathbed, asked this man to promise to care for her daughter. The promise the grandson made weighs on him heavily.

She is always short of money. She has pawned jewellery and withdrawn money from her superannuation on “hardship” grounds. She drinks very cheap alcohol into the early hours of the morning, then sleeps through most of the day. My sister-in-law is very worried that this woman’s life could end suddenly, either outside or inside the home, and is concerned about any legal implications for her grandson.

Apart from the many family members who are fully aware of this most unfortunate set of circumstances, no one else has any knowledge of what he is enduring. Do you know of any legal measures he should put in place to cover any possible adverse position he could find himself in?

ANSWER:

It is difficult to see from the facts provided that the grandson need be concerned about the possible consequences of his partner’s death.

He will not be liable for her debts unless he agreed specifically to be jointly liable.

He will continue to be liable for the lease on their rented property. If he cannot pay the rent on his own, he may need to apply for rent assistance from Centrelink. Alternatively, if it is a two-bedroom apartment, he could advertise for a tenant to share (note that approval must be sought from the landlord to sub-let when you are renting).

It must be very distressing for your sister-in-law to watch her grandson‘s partner drink heavily and gamble resulting in a shortage of money. It is important to let the grandson know that there is assistance available for his partner, perhaps he can encourage her to take the necessary steps to engage with the services that can help.

Drug and Alcohol Services SA operates a withdrawal service for alcohol and other drugs. The Alcohol and Drug Information Service is also available by phone (1300 13 1340) between 8.30am and 10pm daily. This is a confidential telephone counselling, information and referral service for the general public, concerned family and friends. The Gambling Helpline (1800 858 858) offers free and confidential support.

Remember, help is available and seeing your GP is also a good first step. It is very important for people who are drinking heavily to be reviewed by a medical professional. Thiamine (B1) deficiency contributes to a number of conditions including confusion, reduced memory, brain damage and congestive heart failure. Thiamine deficiency can and should be treated. Heavy drinkers can also experience deficiencies in magnesium. Symptoms include confusion, apathy and insomnia.

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