Attorneys: Be on your guard against rogue funeral planners!
For a long time, we’ve been speaking out again rogue funeral planners and when the news finally broke that the law would be changed to regulate firms offering pre-paid funeral plans in July 2022 we were overjoyed. But, it appears there are still stories coming out of the woodwork - and if you are acting for a vulnerable adult as their attorney under a registered financial Lasting Power of Attorney you need to be extra vigilant and check any paperwork relating to a pre-paid funeral plan.
Blowing the whistle
This week, an employee blew the whistle on her employer after she discovered he was pocketing cash that was meant for families to plan and pay for their funerals.
Sarah Yorke spoke to BBC Scotland about how she confronted her fraudster boss, who had scammed innocent people out of more than £140,000, instead of putting the money into trusts.
Ms Yorke, from Fife, was an experienced funeral director - something she says was her boss, Barry Stevenson-Hamilton’s, first mistake, as she claims prior to that he hired people that were early in their career or had little to no experience.
During her employment Yorke began to file the funeral plans in alphabetical order but realised something wasn’t quite right after contacting a few providers, only for them to tell her that no such pan existed with them. She soon discovered this was the case for 49 of Stevenson-Hamilton’s customers and she soon got to work secretly collating evidence before going to the police.
Stevenson-Hamilton was jailed for 33 months, but the question remains whether justice was really served for the people who were left out of pocket for his crimes.
Left out of pocket
One such victim was Sheila Baines, 74, who signed herself and her 80-year-old husband up for, what they believed, was a funeral plan with Stevenson-Hamilton in 2018.
She said police arrived at her home and requested to see the plans she had bought and the officer told Baines the documents were fake and worth nothing.
Another victim was Betsy MacRae, who was 99 when she was scammed out of £5,000 for funeral plans covering herself and her 80-year-old daughter, only to find when she passed away, the family had to pay for a funeral from scratch.
The funeral plan market was reformed this summer meaning a provider must be authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
It means from July 2022 onwards, if a funeral plan provider does not meet the requirements set by the FCA, they will no longer be allowed to sell plans or carry out funerals.
Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for rogue funeral planners, but if you have Lasting Powers of Attorney, it is so important that you check any paperwork that you hold.
If you would like any further advice or support carrying out your role as attorney, or you’d like to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.