I am the only Court of Protection Panel Deputy based in Bristol. As a result I tend to help families based in the city, as well as in Gloucester, Somerset and Devon.
I am normally asked to act by the Court of Protection where they are concerned that an individual, often elderly, is not being properly looked after by a family member who may have been appointed as an Attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney or Enduring Power of Attorney . It is extremely sad, but unfortunately common, when such a position of great importance is abused. I see again and again examples of when an Attorney has mixed their financial affairs with those of their mother or father. While the reason for doing so is often expressed as being “what they would want” or “in their best interest”, the actions often demonstrate that sadly they have simply stolen money from their loved ones.
It can be expressed as a “loan” or an attempt at inheritance tax planning but it is normally very evidently in the interest of the Attorney rather than the mother or father who will have lost their mental capacity to make decisions. The evidence is often clear to see. A bank account may be closed with the proceeds diverted into the Attorney’s account. A house will be sold with the money from the sale never returning to a bank account designated for the mother or father. Alternatively, incoming benefits may be diverted away from the mother or father.
The Office of the Public Guardian has become ever more vigilant of such behaviour. It is incumbent upon an Attorney to keep accounts. These can be simple. Nevertheless, if someone has more complicated affairs then it is very important these are more comprehensive. There are times when being an Attorney can simply become overwhelming.
The Attorney may have a busy work life or family life and become simply unable to properly manage the affairs of their loved one as they should. I am increasingly assisting families with elderly loved ones where such problems have arisen. I find that once steps are taken to put everything back on a proper footing then my involvement becomes minimal. The sadness is seeing people towards the ends of the life finding that the very people that they trusted to look after them have, for whatever reason, failed to do so.
If you are struggling to carry out your duties as an Attorney please contact me for advice.