It is a regrettable truth that even close family members cannot always be trusted to do the right thing, as illustrated by a case dealing with a wayward son who was appointed as attorney over his elderly mother’s financial affairs. Unfortunately, he used her life savings to ‘subsidise his lifestyle’, whilst refusing to pay her care home bills.
The son’s attempts to manage his mother’s finances had, according to the judge, ‘spectacularly backfired’, leaving her in an intensely vulnerable position, and his integrity had been ‘utterly eroded’ by his use of her money to cover his own household bills, to tax his car and to advertise his business in local newspapers.
The mother, aged in her 90s, had been admitted to a care home following a fall and had since racked up more than £77,000 in unpaid fees, rendering her technically insolvent. Her son insisted that he had done nothing wrong and that he had withheld the fees due to an ongoing dispute with the NHS, which he argued should have funded his mother’s care.
However, following a detailed investigation by the Public Guardian – who protects the interests of people who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions – the judge described the son’s stance as ‘totally unacceptable’. His failure to pay the fees, to provide a personal allowance to his mother and to co-operate with the authorities was ‘concomitant with an actual misappropriation of funds’.
The son may have been motivated by a desire to salvage as much as possible of his and his sister’s potential inheritance from their mother, but the judge concluded, “I am satisfied that he has behaved in a way that is not in his mother’s best interests and, as she lacks capacity to revoke the lasting power of attorney herself, I shall revoke it for her.” A professional was appointed in the son’s place to ‘sort out the mother’s finances and set them on an even keel’.
Accordingly, the son was stripped of his power of attorney over her financial affairs.
The choice of an attorney to look after your affairs should be made with great care and it is sensible to appoint more than one person in order to ensure that matters are properly dealt with in a way that is in your best interests and which complies with the law. We can advise you on this sensitive area.