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‘Irresponsible’ personal attorneys removed by court

The Court of Protection has branded the son and daughter of an elderly lady “irresponsible” and revoked responsibility for their mother’s affairs.

The case concerned ‘OL’, who is now 77. She was born in Barbados and came to Britain in the 1950s. She settled in London, married in 1956 and went on to have three children: two sons and a daughter. Her husband, also from the West Indies, died in 1993.

In 2011 OL was diagnosed with a form of dementia. Two years later she also suffered a stroke. Later the same year, the former civil servant officially granted her daughter and youngest son lasting powers of attorney for her health and welfare, as well as her property and financial affairs.

The following year, however, OL’s eldest son became concerned by the fact his mother’s home had been sold, and that his sister had bought a new home for her and OL in Croydon. When the daughter responded by saying that the transactions were “none of his business”, the older son contacted the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), the authority responsible for regulating the affairs of personal attorneys.

An investigation was launched and soon uncovered evidence that the daughter and youngest son had each granted themselves 40 per cent shares in their mother’s new home in Croydon via a declaration of trust, leaving her only a 20 per cent share. Substantial sums had also been used to pay off the daughter’s mortgage and carry out renovation work on her home.

At the Court of Protection, Senior Judge Lush noted that:

In a period of six months OL had gone from having a property worth £730,000 to having only £7,000 in her bank account plus, of course, a 20% share of the house in Croydon.”

The two attorneys were asked to provide a full account of the transactions but failed to do so.

The OPG consequently applied to have the son and daughter’s powers of attorney revoked. The older son expressed full support for this move, suggesting that he be appointed in their stead.

The Judge granted the OPG’s application, stating that the siblings had contravened their authority as deputies and had exploited their vulnerable mother.

“Their failure to keep accounts of the transactions carried out on the donor’s behalf or to produce any record of her income and expenditure would alone be sufficient to warrant the revocation of their appointment. However, in this case both attorneys, and in particular DA, have compounded their culpability by taking colossal advantage of their position and obtaining personal benefits far in excess of the limited power that attorneys have to make gifts of the donor’s property under section 12 of the Mental Capacity Act.”

However, Senior Judge Lush also refused the older son’s application for deputyship, stating:

“I do not believe he has sufficient detachment or impartiality to manage his mother’s affairs and to ensure that her interests and position are properly considered. I sense that he is motivated partly by a desire to salvage his own inheritance and partly by a craving for revenge against his sister and brother.”

Re OL is available to read here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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