Investigations into Attorneys and Deputies up by 45%

Investigations into the actions of those given the responsibility to make financial decisions on someone’s behalf under a Lasting Power of Attorney or a Deputyship Order have soared by 45% in recent years.

This information has been sourced by a Freedom Information request to the Office of the Public Guardian by the insurance group Royal London. Royal London revealed they had received confirmation 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 a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) agreement, attorneys are given the legal responsibility to manage a named individual’s affairs both in situations where the person who grants the LPA retains their mental capacity or in the situation where they lose the mental capacity to do it themselves. Deputies are appointed by the Court of Protection if an individual has lost mental capacity without an LPA being previously completed.

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 their finances, with almost 1.6 million agreements covering property and financial affairs and just 732,000 for health and wellbeing. Regardless of this statistic, the popularity of health and wellbeing LPAs is growing enormously.

Royal London has claimed that the level of investigations into people who are being entrusted to manage another person’s affairs suggests that many people do not understand what they can and cannot do under the LPA in the first place. This may be down to poor training, poor practice or even malpractice amongst other factors.

An attorney acting in a proper manner 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. Good solicitors should be able to guide and advise an attorney with regard to his/her duties once appointed in order to try to minimise bad practices.

One of Royal London’s advisers has been quoted as saying, “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.’

Ann-Marie Matthews is a solicitor in the private client team at Barker Gotelee, Solicitors in Suffolk.

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