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Son who ‘broke every rule’ loses responsibility for his mother’s affairs

The son of an elderly woman from Holland has lost responsibility for his mother’s affairs after breaking “every rule in the book”.

The Public Guardian v AM referred to as ‘Carla’, who was born in Hilversum . She and her husband, also Dutch, moved to England in 1964 and settled in Surrey. He died 20 years later. The couple had one son, ‘AM’, who lives in London and runs a skincare company.

In 2011, Carla was diagnosed with dementia. She later also developed breast cancer and now lives in a nursing home. By that point, she had already given AM responsibility for her property and affairs, under a lasting power of attorney (LPA).

But by May this year, the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), who regulates personal deputies, had become concerned by AM’s behaviour and applied for a court order under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 compelling him to fully account for all his financial dealings in the role of deputy.

An OPG investigator made a number of allegations about AM. He had misappropriated funds from the sale of his mother’s house, she claimed, withdrawing money “for his own purposes”. Prior to that, he had also withdrawn more than £136,000 from his mother’s various bank accounts

A representative from the Court of Protection visited Carla in her nursing home to confirm that she did not have the capacity to question her son about his behaviour or withdraw the LPA.

AM denied these claims. He insisted that his mother would have approved of his actions and that he had not been acting contrary to her best interests. He and his mother had not entered into written agreements and it had not occurred to either of them that this might cause a problem he said. The money he had taken from his mother’s accounts had been used to meet various expenses following a sharp decline in his business. AM explained:

“I felt justified in making these payments with what I legitimately considered to be my money on her bank account.”

He opposed the appointment of a replacement deputy, saying:

“…I do not see how a stranger could comply with my mother’s wishes.”

In the Court of Protection, Senior Judge Lush noted Carla’s dementia was now advanced and she could no longer recognise her son. The OPG, meanwhile, had made its case, he declared.

“…I am …satisfied that the respondent has behaved in a way that contravenes his authority and is not in the donor’s best interests. He has broken virtually every rule in the book…”

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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