Most people would rather have their affairs looked after by a loved one if they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves. However, a case in which a son helped himself to hundreds of thousands of pounds of his elderly mother's money showed that it can often be better to employ a professional to do the job.
Before the woman, aged in her 90s, developed severe dementia, she had signed an enduring power of attorney in favour of her only child, giving him complete control over her affairs if she became incapable. He sold her house after she moved into a care home, generating net proceeds of more than £186,000.
The day after the proceeds were received, the son withdrew more than £160,000 for his own purposes. He had previously transferred to himself almost £100,000 from his mother's bank accounts and further substantial sums had been paid to companies in which he had an interest. The result was that his mother, who could not speak and no longer recognised her son, had insufficient funds available to pay her care home fees.
The truth emerged after the local authority raised concerns that the mother had been deliberately deprived of her assets, and an investigation was launched by the Office of the Public Guardian, the body charged with overseeing the affairs of society's most vulnerable members.
The matter was referred to the Court of Protection, which found that, in exercising his power of attorney, the son had broken virtually every rule in the book. Having exhausted his mother's funds, he blithely expected taxpayers to pick up the tab for her care. The son's power of attorney was revoked and the Court directed his replacement by a professional.