‘Neglectful’ son removed from deputyship

Family Law|October 16th 2015

An unemployed Northamptonshire man has been removed has lost responsibility for his elderly mother’s affairs.

Re RG concerned ‘Rosemary’, a now 82-year old woman who lives in Kettering. She is a former hairdresser who later became a care home matron. She and her late husband had four children, all now in their 40s and 50s. One brother died of a stroke in 2005.

That same year, the woman gave enduring power of attorney (EPA – now called a ‘lasting power of attorney’) to ‘Julian’, her third child, thereby granting him responsibility for her personal affairs.

Rosemary began to develop problems with her mental health problems last year and was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in February this year. Shortly afterwards she moved into a care home.

In May however, Northamptonshire County Council received an anonymous phone call suggesting that the Julian and his elder brothers had begun selling off their mother’s possessions and were planning to rent out her home. The police were alerted but only carried out preliminary investigations.

The authority then launched proceedings to have a local solicitor appointed as Rosemary’s deputy for property and affairs. Representatives of the council, meanwhile, were given permission to change the locks on Rosemary’s home.

Julian objected on the basis of the EPA he had been granted in 2005. The Council therefore applied for a temporary suspension of this pending a full hearing on the issue, in order to protect Rosemary’s property, and this was granted.

In the Court of Protection Senior Judge Lush considered the Council’s application for permanent removal of the EPA. This was supported by Rosemary’s youngest child, ‘Lisa’, who made a number of allegations regarding the behaviour of two of her brothers while living in their mother’s home. These included heavy drinking, violence, dismantling the bathroom for several weeks without replacing the washing facilities, and expecting Rosemary to look after a neglected dog despite her advanced age. On some occasions Rosemary had been left wandering the streets late at night, and had then had to be picked up by Lisa’s own son because she was too scared to return home.

In a statement, Lisa told the court:

“This is why I feel very strongly that this matter of power of attorney, the selling of her belongings out of the home and trying to rent the house out was a very premature situation. My poor mum, as I know to this day, has been left with a handful of clothes and a few photos from her home, which is nothing to show for 82 years of life. I feel the power of attorney should be taken over by the authorities.”

In his judgement, Senior Judge Lush noted that Lisa had requested her address be kept secret from her brothers.

The Judge granted the Council’s application on limited grounds. He accepted that Julian was unsuitable to be his mother’s deputy because he had reportedly neglected his mother’s basic needs for lengthy periods. However, he rejected arguments that the deputyship should be suspended because Julian and his brother had let their mother’s property and sold off her possessions.

Senior Judge Lush explained:

“These functions are entirely within the scope of the authority of an attorney acting lawfully under an EPA, and the decision to let the property rather than sell it was a sensible commercial decision…”

Read the judgement here.

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