Your family or your finances: What would you choose?

You’d think the answer to this question would be easy and that anyone would choose family over any situation. However, it seems at times we forget how our assets, such as property and finances, can tear families apart.

I read a story in the Times about an 86-year-old man who was in the middle of a bitter family dispute over power of attorney. Whilst it sounds like a fraught and awkward situation, it is surprisingly common and something we are encountering more and more.

The man, Alan Copson, had poor health. In fact he’d deteriorated so much that he needed help with his finances and he enlisted the help of his cousin, Christopher, to look after his bank accounts and pay his bills. Christopher agreed to help officially and was granted a lasting power that would allow him to access and deal with Alan’s finances, including properties in Bromley and in Dorset.

There were clearly issues in relation to the use of the lasting power which can and does cause significant problems if the attorneys do not act in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act and Code of Practice. In this case, when the cousins’ relationship later deteriorated, things very quickly went sour. Christopher sold Alan’s Bromley home – supposedly against his wishes. Also, some of the contents including furniture and valuable heirlooms were also apparently sold or given away.

Christopher’s response to criticism was that he was clear of any wrong doing as he’d acted under instruction following Alan’s wishes to permanently move to Dorset. Proceeds from the sale, as well as the disposal of any other items of value, were used to fund Alan’s care costs. Christopher also insists that Alan was made fully aware of the powers he was giving to him. Unfortunately, their relationship has now irrevocably broken down.

Sadly, these are increasingly common occurrences. My advice to anyone considering making a lasting power of attorney is that they must trust their attorney/s. In the first instance an attorney must try to assist and support the person who has made the lasting power to make their own decisions. The attorney/s should only make best interest decisions if absolutely necessary remembering there is an assumption of mental capacity unless proven otherwise. If attorneys do need to act then the attorney/s must act in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act and ought to take advice on this and the related issues.

Acting as an attorney can be very complicated, with all sorts of issues to deal with. It is certainly very time consuming and can be very stressful and upsetting. It also is essential to carefully consider family dynamics and to think about how your own family relationships may be impacted.

If you would like to know more about lasting power of attorney documents, or you would like some advice relating to your own situation, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Liz Dalgetty

Liz Dalgetty

Consultant Solicitor & Notary Public

Tel: +44 (0) 1306 502251

Office: Dorking Office

Email: [email protected]