Elderly widow destitute after accountant scam



Paul Willis, a 51-year-old accountant from Banwell Road in Locking, Weston-super-Mare, has been jailed, after conning an elderly woman out of her life savings. He was only caught after she died penniless in a care home in 2008.

So how could he get away with this for so long, and how can you protect your family?


Willis was given power of attorney over the estate of Margaret Nunn, a family friend, who was 94. He was supposed to ensure she was looked after in her old age, and was left £10,000 in her will to say thank you.

However, the Telegraph reported that instead of using the money for her benefit, he paid off his enormous debts, then splashed out on holidays and clothes. He even charged her £18,000 in accountancy fees. Just as the money ran out, Nunn died.

It was only when Nunn died in 2008 that he was discovered. Her daughter, who lives in South Africa, was told there was no inheritance, and an investigation was launched.

According to This is Bristol, when questioned at an earlier hearing he answered: "I'm entitled to expect a certain standard of living."

He was sentenced to 38 months in prison, and the judge said: "You stole, over a protracted period, £183,000 from the assets of an elderly lady for whom you were an accountant and executor of her estate, and for whom you had been granted power of attorney. She was a vulnerable woman. I find that you had stolen from her to the point at which in the last days of her life she was destitute."

Protect your family

It shows how important it is to think carefully when you give someone lasting power of attorney.

It's a wise idea to do this when you are healthy, because it allows someone to step in and help when you are unable to make your own decisions. There are two types - someone can look after your health, or after your finances - you can choose to make one type or both.

If you appoint someone to look after your finances they can deal with things like paying bills, collecting benefits and selling your home.

However, with such responsibilities, it's vital that you think very carefully about who you appoint. You are free to pick anyone over 18, a friend, a professional, or a relative. However, Nunn's experiences show how essential it is to choose someone you know very well, who looks after their own affairs well, that you trust implicitly, and that you trust their decisions too.

Don't assume that a professional will be perfectly suitable, and don't worry about upsetting people close to you if you think they won't do the job well. Talk to them when you make your choice, and explain your reasoning so there can be no misunderstandings further down the line.

These people are responsible for taking care of you in the most important ways when you are unable to take care of yourself, so it's vital you pick someone who is up to the job.