Court action against power of attorney misuse reaches highest-ever levels

Thursday, 10 October 2019
The England and Wales Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) applied for court orders against attorneys alleged to have behaved poorly in more than 700 cases in 2018/19, by far the largest number ever.

The number of legal actions taken by the OPG against people with lasting power of attorney (LPA) has more than doubled over the past two years, according to data obtained by law firm Nockolds. The increase is much faster than the increase in the number of attorneys on the register, suggesting that financial misconduct is becoming disproportionately common among attorneys. Making improper gifts and not acting in the donor's best interests are two of the principle reasons for having attorneys either censured or removed.

The OPG only takes action against attorneys who are still managing the donor's financial affairs, whereas misconduct by attorneys is usually only discovered after the donor has died. Thus, the numbers of removal applications made to the Court of Protection are only a small proportion of the actual incidence of financial abuse. Moreover, the OPG is unable to take legal action in many suspected cases of abuse, because it is usually tipped off by relatives, care homes and local authorities who are not able to verify wrongdoing.

The OPG also began nearly 3,000 safeguarding investigations during 2018/2019, 53 per cent more than in the previous year.

'Misconduct among attorneys is very difficult to detect so these numbers are likely just the tip of the iceberg', commented Nockolds partner Peter King. 'There are some fundamental questions about how the current system operates and whether there are sufficient safeguards at the point at which people register.'

  • In April 2019, the OPG launched a new safeguarding strategy to protect donors, to include working more closely with adult social services and the NHS.

Sources

The content displayed here is subject to our disclaimer. Read more