Power of attorney

How Do I Stop Abuse Or Misuse Of A Power Of Attorney?27th Jul 2018

As a Court of Protection Panel Deputy (the only one in Dorset), I am being called on to investigate a growing number of cases involving the misuse of powers of attorney. Many of these cases can be characterised as abuse.

The number of investigations into attorneys (or appointed deputies) across the country last year rose to 1,729. That is 44 per cent up on the previous 12 months.

Based on experience, I am not surprised.

I am seeing an increasing number of these cases across the South West. And the South East too for that matter; I am dealing with cases ranging from West Dorset to Surrey.

It saddens me to report that I have seen more referrals from the Court of Protection for the misuse of powers of attorney in the last 12 months than I have in the previous 14 years.

This makes us as a firm more determined than ever to help safeguard all those vulnerable people.

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Elder Abuse, Misuse Of Powers Of Attorney

There are two types of lasting power of attorney: Property and Financial Affairs and Health and Welfare.

Most of the cases I am called on to investigate centre on the first type. They all involve money being misspent, administered poorly or going missing.

Here is a typical scenario. An elderly, infirm or vulnerable person takes out a power of attorney in case they lose mental capacity in the future and can no longer take decisions for themselves. That nominated attorney is usually a trusted family member.

So far so good. Powers of attorney are sensible legal precautions; they are as important as a will. We would strongly recommend that all families think about them – especially as dementia is on the increase.

But in rare cases, that trusted person nominated as an attorney under-estimates the legal duties placed on them. Or they become complacent about their new role and start to take liberties with the elderly relative’s savings: they don’t keep proper accounts, they treat themselves to gifts, holidays or other lavish expenditure.

At the behest of the Court of Protection, my role is to investigate and challenge errant attorneys and to safeguard the well-being and the assets of the vulnerable.

I hear the same old excuses from the wrongdoers when I confront them: “It’s what Mum would have wanted…she always said the money was coming to me anyway…I deserve it as I’ve been looking after her…I should be paid for what I’ve done.”

This has to stop.

How To Stop The Abuse

Worried that someone is misusing a power of attorney to take advantage of a loved one? The first step is to report the misuse to the Office of the Public Guardian.

Sometimes the initial warning comes from a concerned member of the family but alternatively it can be from another third party.

Often a care home or a council official will raise the alarm because the elderly person’s money has run out and metaphorical alarm bells start to ring. But it’s not too late to help the victim – and that’s where we can help.

Get Expert Legal Advice

Need expert help with a power of attorney? 

Contact Coles Miller solicitor Stuart Bradford, a Partner at the firm, head of our Probate Department and a Court of Protection Panel Deputy.