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A recent court case shows the wisdom of ensuring that there is effective supervision of anyone acting under a power of attorney, especially if substantial assets are involved.
The case involved a lady, now in her 80s and suffering from dementia, who lives in a residential care home. In 2009, she appointed her son and daughter to manage her affairs under a lasting power of attorney (LPA). At the time, she was considered to be mentally capable of executing the LPA validly and it was drawn up under the guidance of a solicitor.
In practice, the daughter dealt with all her mother's financial affairs after the LPA was effected and the son was not involved.
In 2011, the woman changed her will to give 95 per cent of her estate to her daughter and 5 per cent to her son. In 2013, her daughter put her house on the market.
Her son became suspicious of his sister's management of their mother's affairs and took legal action to prevent the sale of the house without his consent.
The woman's care home fees fell into arrears and, after an investigation by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), it was found that the daughter had spent more than £450,000 of her mother's money.
The OPG applied to the Court of Protection (CoP) for the power of attorney to be revoked and the local council to be made the woman's attorney. The brother admitted he had made a serious error of judgment in allowing his sister free reign in the management of their mother's assets. He stated that he was willing to fulfil his duties as attorney and would sort out his mother's finances after his daughters had finished their 'A' levels in the summer.
Remarkably, he showed compassion for his sister, despite the fact that they did not get along well, and indicated that he did not intend to take further action regarding her misfeasance, which she blamed on depression.
The CoP decided that the son should remain as sole attorney.