The number of investigations into the actions of attorneys and deputies who have been given the responsibility to manage an individual’s finances or make decisions on their behalf has soared by 45% in the past year.
This is according to a Freedom Informationrequest to the Office of the Public Guardian by Royal London. It revealed that the number of investigations into the actions of attorneys and deputies rocketed from 1,199 in 2016/17 to 1,729 in 2017/18.
Under lasting power of attorney (LPA) agreements, attorneys are given the responsibility to manage a named individual’s personal and financial affairs should they lose the mental capacity to do it themselves. Deputies are appointed by the Court of Protection if an individual loses mental capacity without an LPA being agreed.
There are two types of LPA– one covering property and financial affairs and the second covering decisions around health and wellbeing.
Individuals are more likely to arrange LPAs for the former, with almost 1.6 million agreements covering property and financial affairs and just 732,000 for health and wellbeing.
However, Royal London claims that the level of investigations into people who are being trusted to manage another person’s affairs suggests that many do not understand what they can and cannot do under the agreement.
Helen Morrissey, personal finance specialist at Royal London, says: “When done properly, the attorney fulfils a vital role in safeguarding the interests of the person they are acting for. However, the sheer number of investigations into the actions of attorneys is concerning and action needs to be taken to curb poor practice.”
She adds: “While there have been instances where people appointed as attorneys have used their position to steal money from the person they are acting for, there are also instances where the attorney has unwittingly stepped beyond the boundaries of their responsibilities or have neglected to keep up to date records explaining what they have done and why. People taking on these responsibilities need clearer guidance on what they can and cannot do.”
Royal London has the following tips to help:
- An attorney or deputy’s finances must be kept entirely separate from the donor’s and they must not profit from the arrangement in any way.
- Clear records must be kept of any action taken as well as the rationale behind it.
- Care must be taken when gifting the donor’s money (for birthdays, Christmas and other customary occasions). Gifts should only be made to people they are related to or connected with in some way. Although there are no limits stipulating the size of gifts, attorneys and deputies should consider the size and nature of gifts previously made by the donor and consider whether it is proportional to their overall wealth.
- Attorneys should get an understanding of the donor’s finances and ensure they get details of where their various financial accounts are held.
While many mistakes may be innocent, the Office for the Public Guardian has the power to suspend attorneys and deputies if it suspects foul play. In the most serious cases attorneys have been jailed for their actions.