In a dispute concerning the appointment of a legal deputy for an elderly man, the Family Court has ruled in favour of an unrelated acquaintance.
In DB v DW, the elderly man, referred to as ‘AW’, was born in 1916 and is therefore approaching his 100th birthday. For much of his life, he lived in Bexley, Kent, with his wife. They had no children and she eventually died in 1982.
In his judgement, Senior Judge Lush noted that:
“After his wife’s death AW found comfort, companionship and consolation at the local Baptist Church, and was baptised and even became a deacon.”
Later AW formed a relationship with a local woman, MG, via a mutual love for walking and they became “inseparable companions”. AW remained active and alert into his 90s.
Last year MG was admitted to hospital for several months and as a result could no longer provide AW with day-to-day care or take care of his personal affairs. As a result he was quickly taken into a home for respite care and has remained in one ever since. Meanwhile, a search was begun for someone who could assume formal responsibility for the man’s home and finances.
DW is AW’s nephew and closest living relative. He had previously been asked if he would act as an executor of AW’s will and he agreed to do so, but it was unclear whether such a will had ever been drawn up. Meanwhile, DB is the brother-in-law of MG, the man’s female friend.
In September last year, DW applied to be appointed AW’s deputy, stating that he had had regular contact with his uncle and wished “to do the very best I can for him in his remaining years”.
The following month DB did the same. MG expressed her opposition to DW’s application, disputing his claims to have had regular contact with AW and saying he had little knowledge of his uncle’s likes and preferences. She declared:
“I have known AW for nearly 30 years. I am not his lodger but his partner. He proposed marriage on numerous occasions. So DW’s personal statement to the court regarding regular contact with his uncle must relate to greetings not visits.”
The resulting court hearing was held at relatively short notice. Senior Judge Lush said this was because of AW’s “advanced age”.
He concluded that DB was the best choice to be AW’s deputy. The Judge cited various reasons, including his professional experience working as insurance manager. This meant, said the Judge, that he had the required numeracy skills and an “ability to communicate with others in a courteous manner”.
In addition, he had already been made a deputy for AW in relation to his social security benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions. He had also been made the executor of a will drawn up by AW in 2011.
Another consideration was the fact that DB lived closer to Bexley than DW and visited the area more frequently.
Read the judgement here.
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