A former Judge has warned of the potentially “devastating” risks in the power of attorney system.
When someone cannot make decisions for themselves about their finances or welfare, another person can be granted ‘power of attorney’ over them, allowing them to make decisions on the first person’s behalf.
There are currently around 2.5 million such arrangements in place, according to the BBC, and last year there were 650,000 applications to register new ones.
Denzil Lush, a Judge who spent 20 years in the Court of Protection before his retirement last July, recently criticised the lack of safeguards in power of attorney appointments. With little oversight from the Courts, the people who hold power of attorney can, and sometimes do, use this access for their own financial benefit. Past examples of this include people using someone else’s money to buy property, cars or pay their own bills.
In a new foreword to one of his two books, the former Judge claimed that a “lack of transparency causes suspicions and concerns [among family members] which tend to rise in a crescendo and eventually explode”. The can be “devastating” to relationships, he cautioned.
Judge Lush also insisted that the appointment of a ‘deputy’ by the Court of Protection itself – the legal alternative to power of attorney – had been “demonised” by a “crusade” against it. Deputies work in a very similar way to people with power of attorney except they must provide annual accounts and a full list of assets in order to prove they are not mismanaging someone’s affairs. While the appointment of deputies is the more expensive option, the former Judge believes the benefits outweigh the cost.
Judge Lush dealt with around 6,000 of these cases over the course of his career. In one such instance, he revoked a man’s power of attorney over his mother following the “utter fecklessness” of his handling of her finances.