A son stole £700,000 from his frail mother using a Power of Attorney. Sadly, early legal precautions which could have been taken were not used and it is a warning to make a Power of Attorney, through a solicitor, while we are mentally strong enough to resist influence and recognize risks, rather than “wait until it is needed”.
Richard Willis discovered after his father’s death in 2007 that he would not inherit everything. He then became an Attorney for his mother. He put her into a care home but spent only £29,000 of her assets on her care and when she died she owned only two sets of clothing. Meanwhile, he spent her savings on expensive clothes (for him), dining out, shotguns, sports cars and a house.
Mr Willis has recently been released from prison, but ordered to repay £566,365 to his mother’s estate or return to prison. This money can then be distributed in accordance with Mrs Willis’ Will.
This case highlights the need to be aware of the risks of abuse when completing Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs). When done properly they can be invaluable documents which enable the prompt and effective management of the affairs of a person who is no longer able to make decisions themselves (or does not wish to do so, in the case of property and financial matters). However, it is vital that those making LPAs (the donor) understand both the nature and scope of the authority which they are giving away, and the potential risks of doing so. It is very important to consider carefully the relationship between the donor and the proposed Attorneys and for the donor to understand how the LPAs may be misused and what safeguards can be put in place. Making an LPA early on is therefore a useful protection against undue influence and unwise decisions later after, often after bereavement and once elderly and more vulnerable. As seen, leaving it until later can mean the wrong person is chosen and safeguards aren’t built in.
The best way to make sure you have considered all of the implications of making an LPA before putting any decisions into practice is to take good legal advice. At Hewitsons we have a large team of solicitors who can help you consider who your Attorneys should be, the interplay between the management of your lifetime affairs and the contents of your Will, how the LPAs would work in practice if they were ever needed and what precautions can be taken.
If you would like further information please contact..
Jennifer Koch (Cambridge) on 01223 532737 or click here to email Jennifer.
Carolyn Bagley (Milton Keynes) on 01908 247015 or click here to email Carolyn.
Francesca Rossi (London) on 020 7400 5037 or click here to email Francesca.
Rachel Hawkins (Northampton) on 01064 463165 or click here to email Rachel.