Roles Split When Stress Makes Attorney Unreliable

Appointing an attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is normally a sensible precaution. The procedure allows one's financial affairs (and, if required, matters relating to health and welfare) to be entrusted to others if you are unable to manage them yourself.

The procedure is that, at the appropriate time, the person named registers the LPA at the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). The attorney then carries out the role under the supervision of the OPG, which, in normal circumstances, uses a very 'light touch'.

The choice of attorney is clearly one which should be made with great care. Normally, family members, friends and/or a person's solicitors are chosen to act as attorneys.

A recent case shows what can be done if an attorney becomes unsuitable after commencing to act.

It involved a man who appointed his wife and two children to be his attorneys for his property and financial affairs under an LPA. He appointed his daughter alone to be his attorney for his health and welfare. His daughter's own daughter died aged four and her marriage broke down. The man's wife also died.

Following those events, the daughter's behaviour became difficult and her brother found it increasingly hard to deal with her. She absented herself for a long period from acting as attorney and there were fears that she was suffering from mental health issues herself. The brother wished to remove his sister from her position as attorney. As their father was not mentally capable of changing his LPA, the matter had to be resolved in court.

By the time the question of her suitability was brought to the Court of Protection (CoP), communications between her and her brother were being conducted through solicitors.

The CoP Visitor concluded that the daughter's 'worst' behaviour had been limited to the period during which she was under the most stress. The CoP ruled that she should continue to act as her father's health and welfare attorney as she had been specifically selected for that role, but should be removed as attorney for his property and financial affairs.