Although it is normally sound procedure to appoint an attorney to act in respect of your affairs should you become incapable of doing so yourself, where this precaution is not taken, it is still possible for your relations to apply to the Court of Protection to appoint a 'deputy' to manage your assets on your behalf.
However, such applications are not always straightforward, for example if an appointee is unsuitable or their appointment is opposed by a family member.
A recent case dealt with the problems that arose when the family of a woman who suffers from dementia and is unable to manage her own affairs applied to the Court to be appointed as her deputies.
The application was made by the woman's husband and her first cousins. It was opposed by one of her two sons, a director of a company which had recently gone into liquidation. He owed his parents £170,000 in respect of a loan made to him to set up the company that had failed.
It was clear from the evidence of the various family members, including the woman's second son, that they regarded the son who opposed the application as completely unsuitable to be a deputy and the Court agreed with that assessment, the judge commenting that 'he lacks competence and integrity and...has a poor track record of managing his company's financial affairs'.
However, the Court also declined to appoint the woman's husband to be a deputy, the judge concluding that 'he has his own health issues and would probably prefer to be relieved of the worry'.
Observing that the cousins were willing and able to act, live locally and were also appointed to be the executors of the woman's will and the attorneys of her husband under a lasting power of attorney, the Court confirmed them as deputies, in the knowledge that they would consult with the woman's husband when making any decisions.