Powers of Attorney and the risk of abuse

A man has been jailed following a review of his mother’s financial affairs.  Mr Snelling, who was living in North Devon at the time, admitted four charges of fraud by abuse of position following a trial at Exeter Crown Court.  It was alleged he had taken over £41,000 from his mother while in charge of her financial affairs from 2007 onwards, though it is unclear whether he had been formally appointed as his mother’s attorney.

In 2012 alone, Mr Snelling went on three foreign holidays, which are reported to have cost in the region of £10,000 – far in excess of his usual spending.

By 2013, Mr Snelling’s own daughters had become so concerned about his spending that they decided to intervene. They took their grandmother, aged 93, to the bank, following which Mrs Snelling discovered that her son had withdrawn £28,520 from one account and a further £13,000 from another.

Unfortunately Mrs Snelling passed away before the trial took place, but her evidence nonetheless struck a chord with the court and led to the guilty plea.

This case highlights the problem of fraud relating to people’s personal finances and the importance of selecting an appropriate attorney (or appointee) to monitor your financial affairs.  The difficulty in this instance was that from the outside, Mr Snelling appeared to be a doting and caring son – an ideal attorney in many circumstances.

So, what steps could Mrs Snelling have taken to avoid a situation like this occurring?

Formally appointing an attorney would have been prudent, but there always remains a risk that an attorney could misuse the power.

That risk might be reduced by the appointment of a second Attorney, although this is not always possible.

If you are thinking of making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), our lawyers are happy to address any legal queries you may have and discuss steps can be taken to protect your finances.

We always explore what appropriate measures might be available to safeguard against the LPA being misused or exploited.

Clients are encouraged to discuss with other family members or close friends (who are not named as people to be notified of an application to register the LPA) of the existence of the power, their reasons for appointing the attorney(s) and how they would like the power to be used. By doing so it helps guard against the risk of abuse by an attorney. It may also reduce the chances of conflict arising between family members at a later point.

There may be situations where a deputyship might offer more protection than the creation of an LPA, especially where the assets are more substantial or complex than family members are experienced in dealing with and there is no suitable professional to appoint as attorney.

If you are concerned that you, a family member or a close friend are being subjected to financial abuse, then you can contact the Office of the Public Guardian on 0300 456 0300.  Alternatively, our specialist lawyers will be happy to review your concerns and offer guidance on the steps that can be taken.

 

For a free informal chat about our services, including creation of a Lasting Power of Attorney, please contact us on 0808 139 1606 or simply send us an email with your details.

 

 

Author: cpl

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