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Risks in the power of attorney system as it lacks safeguards

There are flaws in the power of attorney system, according to a woman whose father's finances were exploited by a neighbour.

Frank Willet was in his early 80s and suffered from dementia when he appointed his neighbour. Colin Blake as his power of attorney, giving him responsibility for his financial affairs.

Frank's daughter Lesley was unaware of the agreement as she lived 300 miles away. Two weeks after the documents were signed, Frank's neighbour started withdrawing large sums of money.

Blake drew out £9,000 in one transaction and, when Frank moved into a care home as his health deteriorated, Blake sold Franks's house.

Lesley challenged the power of attorney in court but couldn't prove Blake was unfit to be Frank's attorney and were told everything was satisfactory.

It wasn't until four years later when the Office of the Public Guardian took over and investigated and eventually revoked the power of attorney.

A retired judge has also warned of the risks the public can face and said he would never sign a lasting power of attorney as it can have a 'devastating effect' on families.

Since Frank's case, there have been changes to the power of attorney and the Court of Protection. In the past, an enduring power of attorney (EPA) could be drawn up relatively easily with little oversight.

However, the newer Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) means a professional has to provide a certificate for the document to be drawn up and relatives are no longer contacted.

The Office of the Public Guardian, the organisation which investigated and eventually revoked the power of attorney in Frank's case, now has more authority to investigate complaints about attorneys.

Here at Potter Rees Dolan we have a well-established Court of Protection department where a professional Deputy is appointed with more scrutiny from the outset.

Unlike a power of attorney, a professional Deputy has to prove a full list of annual accounts, assets and a security bond before they are appointed.

Greg Poole, solicitor in the Court of Protection team at Potter Rees Dolan, said:

This sad case of extreme financial abuse highlights how important it is to take independent specialist legal advice when considering who to appoint as your attorney.

A Lasting Power of Attorney is an extremely important and powerful legal document and the appropriate advice should always be sought from a legal expert before any documents are signed.

If family members are unable to act then independent professionals should be considered as an option to ensure your best interests are always the main priority when managing your financial affairs.

Greg Poole is a Court of Protection solicitor with Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about the Court of Protection or any other issues and wish to speak to Greg or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888.