‘Repugnant and Callous’ Son Removed as Mother’s Attorney
A court has removed a son as attorney for his elderly mother after he withdrew £117,289.45 of her money to cover his ‘out of pocket expenses’. Within this, he had ‘billed’ his mother at a rate of £400 per day to visit her. Whilst withdrawing such vast amounts of money for his own benefit, he had also been refusing to pay his mother’s care home fees and even begrudged paying for her to have her hair tinted.
Sheila was 87 years old. She had appointed her son Martin to manage her financial affairs under an enduring power of attorney.
The case was investigated by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) who brought the case before the Court of Protection to ask for Martin to be removed as her attorney.
The Court of Protection is a court that deals with disputes regarding a person who does not have capacity to make their own decisions. Because Sheila did not have capacity to instruct a solicitor to remove Martin as her attorney, the court was tasked with reaching this decision on her behalf and in her best interests.
“This is a truly sad case; few of us can imagine charging a relative for the time spent visiting them. What made this case even worse is that Martin tried to justify his behaviour by arguing that as he was the sole beneficiary to his mother’s estate, the money would be his eventually. It is completely wrong for people to think they are able to help themselves to an early inheritance.”
Cases such as Sheila’s are unfortunately not as rare as you would think. Figures released in the OPG’s annual report for 2012-2013 (published in July 2014) show that they received 2,200 new safeguarding referrals. Following risk assessment, 628 new cases were accepted for full investigation. During this time there was a 34% increase on applications to discharge deputies and attorneys for bad behaviour when compared to the previous year.
In almost all of those cases, the financial abuse was perpetrated by a close relative or family friend.
In an age where people are living longer, there are many advantages to appointing someone as an attorney under a lasting power of attorney. It goes without saying that if you could pick someone to manage your finances on your behalf, you would choose your nearest and dearest to carry out those functions. But how do you know you won’t become the victim of financial abuse in your later years?
Helen offered this advice:
“LPAs are a great resource which allow people to plan how their finances are managed at a time when they might not be able to deal with them directly. There are things you should consider before you appoint an attorney. It may be worth appointing more than one attorney to ensure that decisions are made jointly between people you trust and you are not handing sole control over to one person. You can also incorporate guidance within the document as to how you want your money to be spent or to insist that wider family members are involved in the decision making process if the transaction is over a certain amount.”
If you have concerns about an attorney or deputy, or need advice on any disputes relating to deputies or attorneys please call us today on 01484 538421.