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Wills & Probate

How Do I Stop Abuse Or Misuse Of A Power Of Attorney?

Worried that someone with power of attorney over a loved one may be mishandling their finances or abusing their trust? Find out how you can stop it.

How Do I Stop Abuse Or Misuse Of A Power Of Attorney?

Elder Abuse, Misuse Of Powers Of Attorney

Cases concerning the misuse of powers of attorney have sadly been on the rise over recent years.

The number of investigations into attorneys and appointed deputies continued to increase at an alarming rate prior to the pandemic, with a staggering 3,099 investigations in 2019/2020.

At Coles Miller, we are more determined than ever to help safeguard vulnerable people from misuse and abuse at the hands of attorneys.

What Are Powers Of Attorney? How May They Benefit You?

There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney; Property and Financial Affairs and Health and Welfare.

These are legal documents whereby a third party (the attorney) is appointed and entrusted to make decisions on behalf of the person who granted the power (the donor).

Powers of attorney are sensible legal precautions in the event individuals lose capacity and are unable to take decisions for themselves.

We would strongly recommend all families consider making these, particularly as dementia diagnoses are on the rise.

It may also be the case that an individual still has capacity, but would prefer someone else to handle their finances for them. A Financial Affairs power of attorney would be useful in this regard.

In What Ways Could A Power Of Attorney Be Misused?

Attorneys are placed in positions of trust, making important decisions which impact the donor’s day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, they may underestimate the legal duties placed upon them and can become complacent.

There is also a danger that they may exploit the donor’s trust by misspending money, failing to keep proper accounts and even using the money to benefit themselves.

Last year, a case made the headlines when a daughter (appointed as attorney) stole over £80,000 from her mother who was suffering with dementia over a period of 10 years. Although she claimed her mother had allowed her to take the money, the judge found her guilty of fraud and sentenced her to 2 years in prison. Whilst this is an extreme case, it serves as a warning to donors only to appoint someone in whom they have full trust and confidence.

What Steps Should You Take If You Suspect Someone Is Misusing A Power Of Attorney?

If you suspect someone is abusing their position as an attorney, acting outside the scope of their powers or failing to make decisions in the best interest of the donor, you should report your concerns to the Office of the Public Guardian.

You will need to provide the name, address and date of birth of the donor and any details regarding their mental capacity.

You must also state the date you first became aware of any concerns and provide supporting evidence.

In more serious cases, the OPG may initiate Court of Protection proceedings. The Court of Protection has wide-ranging powers which include revoking LPAs, ordering attorneys to repay sums that they have misappropriated and removing attorneys from their role.

Get Expert Legal Advice

At Coles Miller, we are here to help.

If you would like more information about preventing misuse of powers of attorney or are interested in making a Lasting Power of Attorney, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Contact Coles Miller Solicitor Anthony Weber, a Partner at the firm and head of our Probate Department.

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