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Here is the true horror story set in some retirement villages in Australia.

You may have read the fiction mystery set in a retirement village – Smiling Palms.

Keeping with the theme of horror and mystery, I’m now disclosing some scary facts.

It’s a terrible thought, but did you know your inheritance could actually make you poor?


Many Australian families are finding that the retirement unit left to them in a will, far from being the gift that keeps giving is a gift that keeps taking.

It can eat away at their own savings for years. The problem is all the hidden costs in the contract.

I’m not a believer in waiting around for inheritance money. The idea of profiting from anyone’s death, particularly a loved one’s, has no appeal.






However, I was horrified to discover that some families are struggling financially to keep up with payments on retirement village units once the resident has moved on.

Some families are forced to pay maintenance bills of $400 or more a week for an empty unit while they are waiting for it to sell.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a spare $400 a week.

Retirement units don’t always sell that fast, often because they are overpriced and people are starting to be wary of signing the contracts.

Add to that the fact many contracts stipulate that the retirement village owner is the selling agent – and they can charge exorbitant fees for the service.

There is also an exit fee, called a deferred management fee, which can be around 15 per cent of the sale price if you have stayed beyond the agreed-upon minimum (usually five years). If you try to leave before the minimum the fee is much higher.

So what is the exit fee for? Maintenance of the grounds, amenities and facilities (such as swimming pools).

And what is the ongoing weekly maintenance fee for? Maintenance of the grounds, amenities and facilities.



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All states and territories have regulations regarding what can be charged.




New South Wales changed its legislation in 2013 to offer more protection for retirement village buyers and their families, yet the following year the ABC did a report on families being forced to pay exorbitant ongoing fees, years after the units in retirement villages had been vacated.

In this report, one family spoke of how they were still paying $400 per week during the fourth year since their mother passed.

The unit had been on the market for three years and they could not get out of the contractual obligation of paying the fees.

One family member was quoted as saying;

 I would love to know what the end will be; with this ongoing debt, though, we cannot turn our back on that – the ongoing fees will just keep on accruing. So, I don’t know; will I be passing this on to our children? How long will this go on for?


CHOICE magazine also reported on the complexities and pitfalls of buying into retirement villages in the article Thinking of buying a retirement village? Take care…

This article includes a handy checklist for people considering buying into a village and warns:

Tip: Check the terms of the contract on what happens if you move out of your unit or die, as you or your estate may be responsible for ongoing fees for months (if not years) afterwards, depending on when your unit is sold.


Aside from the financial burden, paying ongoing fees takes an emotional toll on people trying to come to terms with their grief, yet being slapped with a reminder on a regular basis.





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While the thought of an inheritance actually costing you money is depressing, the story is much worse for the resident who is forced to move into the assisted care offered by nursing homes.

In many cases, you are required to pay a bond at the start of your nursing home care on top of a basic daily fee of nearly $50 per day (to cover things like meals, cleaning, and laundry).

The added costs of ongoing fees for your empty retirement village unit puts enormous stress on your (and maybe your family’s) finances.

CHOICE advises people considering buying into retirement villages to understand that most of the services offered, such as help with cleaning and meals, can be accessed in your own home. If you need a higher level of care than this a retirement village may not be the answer as they usually offer independent living units rather than assisted living.

If it’s the lifestyle that attracts you, local neighbourhood centres offer a huge range of activities (often with transport provided) for senior citizens.

When it comes to your inheritance, be careful what you wish for.

In the meantime, wishing you happy choices and a gleeful week, Tamuria.




  • Wow – that is an eye opener. This seems so wrong and out of control. Its upsetting to think that families have to go through this and carry this burden.

    • Yes Krista, I found it quite horrifying when I was researching. I think a lot of people don’t really read the fine print and fully understand what’s happening.

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