Powers of Attorney – Is a Family Member Really the Right Choice?

Powers of attorney are a useful means of ensuring that your affairs are properly managed if you lose the ability to do so yourself. However, a case in which a son was found by a judge to have abused his elderly mother’s trust showed that it is often wiser to choose a professional, rather than a family member, to do the job.

The 87-year-old mother had been prey to mental health problems for many years after she was widowed and was cared for in a nursing home. She had signed an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) which gave her son complete control over her money and property. However, an inquiry was launched by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) after the nursing home’s fees fell almost £30,000 into arrears.

Her home had been sold for almost £190,000, but the Court of Protection found that her callous and calculating son was more concerned for his inheritance than for her welfare. He had refused to pay for such basic comforts as toiletries and had charged more than £117,000 in out of pocket expenses to his mother’s account. He visited her rarely but had charged £400 for his time on each occasion he did so.

He had stated that his mother would die sooner rather than later and had both viewed and treated her money as his own. In those circumstances, the Court found that he had flagrantly abused his position of trust. Charging his mother for his visits was nothing short of repugnant. The Court cancelled the EPA and appointed a professional lawyer to serve as the woman’s deputy in place of her son.