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Signing a Power of Attorney? Is a Loved One Really the Best Option?

The wisdom of entrusting your financial affairs to loved ones in the event of illness was thrown seriously into doubt by one High Court case in which a 95-year-old dementia sufferer was let down by a dishonest and stingy relative.

There was no dispute that the woman lacked capacity to make decisions for herself. She lived in a nursing home where she received around-the-clock care. Prior to her illness she had signed an enduring power of attorney, which conferred absolute control of her finances and property on her niece’s husband.

The Office of the Public Guardian, the body which looks after the interests of Britain’s most vulnerable people, launched an inquiry after the nursing home’s fees fell about £100,000 into arrears and the woman was threatened with eviction. It emerged that her niece’s husband could not explain what had happened to almost £30,000 of her money and had paid her an allowance of just £290 in two and a half years. She was unable to afford even small luxuries and her clothes were so threadbare that she had to wear hand-me-downs from other residents who had moved elsewhere or died.

In stripping the relative of his role as attorney, the Court of Protection found that he had failed to treat the pensioner with any semblance of dignity, empathy or respect. His litany of failures included failing to keep any accounts of expenditure and mixing in his own funds with those of the old lady. He had failed to act with honesty or integrity and the Court ordered his replacement by an experienced solicitor.