Personal Solicitor East Anglia – Bad Day For Peggy Woolley

James Skellorn Cropped

“Is that all there is?  Where is the rest of the money?”

Says grasping stepdaughter Hazel Woolley to Peggy Woolley at the reading of Jack Woolley’s Will in a recent episode of The Archers.

These words would strike fear into anyone who lacked Peggy’s steel.  Peggy has been managing Jack’s affairs for many years using a power of attorney, after he lost mental capacity.  Jack Woolley was a serial entrepreneur before the term had been invented and owned the Grey Gables Hotel, the local newspaper, a café and the village shop.  He became mentally incapable and Peggy had to step in to manage his affairs using either a Lasting or Enduring Power of Attorney registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.  It is a nightmare situation when someone who runs a business becomes mentally incapable. Having the right power of attorney in place appointing the right people and giving them the right powers is a vital precaution.  The question of whether to keep the businesses running or sell them off or close them down is extremely difficult.  Is there a reliable and competent manager to keep a business running, or will the business rapidly dwindle and be overwhelmed by competitors if the driving force is no longer there?

Peggy decides to sell off all of the businesses and let the shop, in a move which is prudent from a commercial point of view.  However, it creates a big inheritance tax problem when none existed before, because interests in trading businesses which would have been exempt from inheritance tax are turned into lumps of money which will attract inheritance tax bills ultimately, unless there is careful planning.

The job of the attorney is burdensome and usually thankless, as Hazel demonstrates.  The attorney must always have in mind the day of reckoning, which is when the mentally incapable person dies and the attorney is answerable to the executors and beneficiaries of the estate.  Attorneys have a duty to keep accounts. It is absolutely crucial that an attorney managing someone’s affairs keeps adequate financial records so that they can demonstrate to the executors that they have dealt with everything properly.  All who run businesses should have either an Enduring Power of Attorney (created before October 2007) or a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.  If there is no power of attorney, someone has to be appointed Deputy by the Court of Protection and considerable cost and bureaucracy ensues.  Those exercising a power of attorney need to keep careful financial records.  No doubt Peggy’s records are immaculate and the avaricious Hazel will be run out of town on Jo Grundy’s horse and cart.  We can’t wait.

James Skellorn is a personal solicitor at Barker GoteleeIpswich Solicitors

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