Giving someone else power of attorney over your finances can be a useful means of ensuring that your affairs will be properly managed if you lose the capacity to do so yourself. However, one case in which a war veteran's money was plundered by a man he considered to be a friend shows how sensible it is to entrust such powers to professionals.
The pensioner, who fought in the Second World War, granted his friend an enduring power of attorney (EPA) when he felt that his faculties were waning. After he was stricken by dementia, his attorney used his position to fleece him of large sums of money. He used the cash to pay off his own debts and to buy supplies for his business. After the pensioner died, the man sold his house, war medals and family photographs before pocketing the proceeds.
After the pensioner's family sounded the alarm and the EPA was revoked, the man pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and was jailed for four and a half years. In dismissing his challenge to the length of his sentence, the Court of Appeal noted the emotional distress suffered by the pensioner's daughter and wider family. The man had used his legal status to exploit the vulnerable pensioner and it was a nasty case, involving a grave breach of trust. In those circumstances, his punishment was neither wrong in principle nor manifestly excessive.
In a case like this, the only redress the family will have is to try to recover their losses from the perpetrator's assets. In practice, this isn't easy as the sums taken have more often than not been frittered away. Using a solicitor as your attorney means you can rely on them to act in your best interests and carry out the tasks involved in a professional manner. Solicitors are required to have insurance to protect their clients' interests in the rare event that a mistake is made.