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  • Sarah Whitebloom

Bad people rob the elderly - not Powers of Attorney

Do not blame Powers of Attorney for thefts from older people. Put the blame where it belongs - on bad people who abuse the trust placed in them, but also on the way the law regarding Powers is framed and finally on the Office of the Public Guardian.

The biggest problem, though, is that people put their trust in those they should not trust – whether it’s a plausible next-door-neighbour or an adult child. But, it is a fact that a single individual can be entrusted with total Powers – which proves too much temptation for some. And finally there is the role of the OPG, which currently can take the view that, if the individual concerned has mental capacity, it’s their choice to be ripped off.

Change the law, make it a requirement to have two or three Attorneys – as suggested on OLM’s Attorney’s page. And beef up the OPG with investigatory responsibilities. But do not put people off Powers of Attorney. They (or their family) will regret it if they develop dementia or are ever in hospital or a care home. If you don’t have Power of Attorney, you don’t have a say – as I found out when I was trying to help my terminally-ill aunt. I was next of kin, but I was told I could make no decisions. I could only sit at her bedside and watch her die.

It is true that bad people use Powers of Attorney to rob the elderly. But, they don’t need Powers to so. In the overwhelming number of cases, family and friends act in good faith and in their relative’s interests. Tear up the system and you won’t stop determined thieves but you will make many older people’s lives more difficult.

Of course, current arrangements need toughening up. Personally, I know of three cases where older people have been fleeced by those in whom they put their trust – their own children. But two had Powers of Attorney and one did not. What they had in common, aside from being thoroughly untrustworthy individuals, was that there was little or no oversight of their actions. Each was effectively given carte blanche by their trusting parents – and they took it.

In one case, concerns were even brought to the attention of the OPG, warning that a favoured child - a sole Attorney - was draining the mother’s resources. They didn’t start off trying to rob their mother but it was just so easy – her money became their money.

After much correspondence, though, the OPG told worried family members to stop contacting them because the mother had placed her trust in the child and that was her prerogative. She did not have dementia, it was her look out if her chosen Attorney was robbing her.

So do beef up the OPG and make it essential to have joint powers. But do not put people off Powers of Attorney.

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