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An issue which many vulnerable individuals face is their risk to financial abuse. Often, individuals with an illness/disorder will have an Attorney, who manages their financial affairs on their behalf. Unfortunately, we are seeing a growing number of people in these roles taking advantage of the vulnerable person. The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) have reported a record high of cases for the removal of attorneys following misconduct.
While the OPG is responsible for overseeing Attorneys, many Attorneys may manage an individual’s finances for years and have no contact with the OPG. This means that any financial misconduct is unlikely to be spotted early.
Restrictions can be put in place when the Attorney is appointed as to what kind of financial decisions they can make. For example, many choose to set out that their Attorney can only manage their finances if and when they lose the capacity to do this for themselves.
Other duties include:
1. To act in the individual’s best interests at all times
2. Financial duties such as not to profit from the role and to avoid conflict with your own personal interests
3. To only make gifts which are reasonable. For example, on birthdays.
Common examples that have been highlighted which may lead to concern for a vulnerable individual are as follows:
1. Expenses not being paid. For example, care fees not being paid on time/regularly and debt accruing.
2. Money being transferred from the individual’s accounts to the Attorney’s accounts.
3. Unreasonable gifts being made
4. Numerous unexplained payments showing on bank statements
Any concerns should be referred to the OPG in the first instance. If it is found that the Attorney has breached their duties, they can be removed and replaced. Proceedings can also be brought against the Attorney which may result in them having to return any profit that they have made or account for any financial loss.
If you would like more information regarding the role of an Attorney or you wish to discuss concerns you may have regarding an Attorney, call our Court of Protection team to discuss your options on 0344 326 0049 or email COPHalifax@ramsdens.co.uk to book a free information session at any of our offices
November 11, 2022
Natalie is a Partner and Solicitor in the Court of Protection department.