We all hope that the ability to make decisions for ourselves remains with us for as long as possible; it is a leap of faith that that we appoint as Attorney will make decisions that are in our best interests.
The Courts have seen a number of cases recently where Attorneys have abused the powers they have been trusted with and misused money owned by those they are supposed to be protecting.
Attorneys are obliged under the terms of a Last Power of Attorney (LPA) to ensure that the best interests of the Donor (person making the LPA) are considered at all times. In one case the attorney failed to pay his mother’s care home fees of £29,000. Instead he decided that every visit he made to his mother in the care home would incur the same £400 ‘expense’ he would levy on his professional clients.
As if this wasn’t shocking enough, he also denied his mother things such as toiletries, chiropody and hair tinting as they were ‘pointless’ in his eyes. In seeking to justify not paying back monies borrowed this delightful man told the court that he would “receive it back in inheritance at some stage in the future anyway”.
In the circumstances, the actions of the Attorney led to his Power being revoked, his actions labelled “repugnant” by the judge and the decision making process placed in the hands of a court appointed deputy instead.
A further reported case saw a daughter’s LPA revoked; whilst the outcome is the same the circumstances are somewhat different.
In this case, her monthly spending of £250 on foods such as cakes and sausage rolls for a dementia sufferer was deemed inappropriate. The court thought that the expenditure was a waste as the care home was providing suitable nourishment for the donor who had a limited appetite.
Most of the food ended up being thrown in the bin, or at staff, resulting in waste and cleaning costs. The Senior Judge in this case ruled that the daughter who was ‘inflexible and adamant’ about her mother’s nutritional needs was not best placed to deal with her affairs and again appointed a court deputy. She appeared to have acted out of love, but was ill-equipped to make appropriate decisions for her vulnerable mother.
If you have concerns about an Attorney’s decisions they should be reported to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) for further investigation. Once an investigation has begun the OPG will determine whether on the balance of probabilities the behaviour of the Attorney is such that was not in the best interests of the donor.
Having reached such a conclusion the OPG will then apply to the Court of Protection for a decision to revoke the appointment of the offending Attorney. The costs of both the investigation and court proceedings, if applicable, are met from the public purse so naturally there is a filtering of complaints and tip-offs at an early stage.
It is always worth seeking the advice of the OPG if you feel that there has been a misuse of funds by an Attorney, although if the donor is at risk of imminent harm contact with the police may be more appropriate.
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