A woman from Surrey was given control of her elderly mother's finances, after she became too unwell to manage her money herself.
However, rather than taking the opportunity to see that her mother was properly cared for, she withdrew £200,000 in cash, arranged bank transfers of £170,000 to her own accounts, wrote cheques for £40,000, and spent £9,000 on lavish holidays.
She also put her mother's £350,000 house on the market. Now a judge has ruled that control of the accounts should be taken back from her.
The Mirror report that the woman, who is in her 40s, was given control of the account after her mother fell ill with dementia. Under the terms of the will she was set to inherit 95% of the estate, and it appears that she decided she wanted to get her hands on the money sooner rather than later.
According to the Daily Mail, she was made an attorney for her mother's property and affairs - alongside her brother. Gradually her brother grew concerned about how the money was being managed, and took a closer look at the accounts, at which point the authorities became involved.
Lasting power of attorney
This sorry tale demonstrates the importance of making a careful choice when you are considering setting up lasting power of attorney. It makes sense to make arrangements when you are well, so that if you fall ill and are unable to take care of your affairs, you know your finances are in safe hands.
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, it's vital to choose someone you know very well, who looks after their own affairs well, and that you trust implicitly.
There have been plenty of times over the years when people have abused this position horribly. In fact, according to Winstons Solicitors, 15% of people do.
Often it is family members who let their elderly relatives down. In July last year the court ruled on two brothers who had been entrusted with the finances of their elderly aunt. The men, in their forties, withdrew tens of thousands of pounds, gave some to their mother, and failed to account for the rest. They also sold their aunt's flat for less than market value, and left her finances in such a parlous state that she was unable to pay for care. The court handed control of what was left to her local council.
A year earlier we reported on the Bury man who had been given control of his 75-year-old mother's affairs when she started suffering from Alzheimer's and went into a care home. What was left of her estate was intended to pay for her £665 a week care. However, he spent £50,000 on luxuries and home improvements, and ran out of money entirely. He also failed to pay the care home, and ran up a £29,000 bill. He was given a suspended jail sentence.
Some people don't want to entrust the role to family, but if you choose to appoint a professional, it's essential to ask plenty of questions, and weigh up whether you would be happy trusting them with all your financial affairs if you were to fall ill.
It's less common for a professional to let you down, but it does happen. In 2013 we reported on the accountant who was jailed after he used his position as power of attorney to steal £183,000 from the estate of a 94-year-old woman. He spent the money repaying huge debts, then splashing out on holidays and spending sprees. She only discovered what he had done when she was told there was no money left to pay for care.
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