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‘Concerning’ rise in number of power of attorneys under investigation

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
People appointed as power of attorneys need more information about what they can and can’t do in their role as figures reveal investigations into them have soared.

Power of attorneys allow people to appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf should a time come when they lack the mental capacity to do so themselves. There are two different types; one covers property and financial affairs and the other covers health and welfare decisions.

Registrations have risen in recent times – 2.3 million as at April 2017 – but so have the number of investigations carried out into the actions of those appointed.

Figures from the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) reveal there were 1,729 investigations into the actions of attorneys and deputies in the 2017/18 tax year. This is a 45% increase from the 1,199 investigations in the previous year.

The majority are investigations into those who have received authority when a person still has mental capacity, while a very small number relate to deputies – those appointed to make decisions on behalf of a person who has already lost mental capacity.

The figures, obtained by mutual insurer Royal London, revealed that investigations into the actions of deputies accounted for 69 investigations in 2016/17 and 82 for 2017/18. This, it said, is due to the fact there are more safeguards under the deputyship regime. This includes the requirement to file annual returns detailing what decisions have been made on an individual’s behalf and why.

Clearer guidance is required

The mutual said more education is needed on what people can and can’t do under a power of attorney.

Helen Morrissey, personal finance specialist at Royal London, said: “When done properly the attorney 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.

“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.”

As such, Royal London has launched a ‘Good with your money’ guide on the key issues to consider when acting as an attorney or deputy. These include:

  • Making sure you’re prepared to carry out the wishes of the person you have agreed to be an attorney for. For instance you may not agree with their views on their medical treatment and find it difficult to carry out their wishes at the appropriate time.
  • The importance of keeping clear records of the decisions taken on behalf of someone else and the rationale behind them.
  • What an attorney can and cannot do when it comes to gifting money to other parties.

See’s Why a lasting power of attorney matters and Applied for a power of attorney? 100,000s could have been overcharged for more information

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