Doing Law Online

It can be convenient and easy to do things online.  However, it isn’t always the most prudent way to do things, and can make it easier to defraud or exploit the vulnerable.

In August 2014 the government shelved plans to create a fully online process for creating Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) including electronic signatures, in light of concerns that such a system would increase the scope for fraud and financial abuse, and would not be suitable for the elderly. In many cases the best way to protect the person making the LPA is to get specialist advice to ensure that an LPA is both appropriate and effective.

Recently the Court of Protection revoked an LPA made without such advice, which was drawn up by the 77 year old donor’s daughter online and appointed the daughter as sole attorney.  The donor, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, did not receive any independent advice, although her daughter claimed to have fully explained the document to her before she signed it, which seems unlikely as she admitted she hadn’t read it.  A friend of the family witnessed the mother’s signature.

Six months after the LPA was registered, the Office of the Public Guardian made its application to the Court of Protection on the basis of evidence indicating that there had been a number of excessive and uncharacteristic withdrawals from the mother’s bank account, reducing its value by half over the six months.  The daughter admitted that she had not read the declaration about her duties in the prescribed form of LPA (who reads terms & conditions online?). She claimed that she gave her mother £600 a month “spending money”, but the judge found that the mother was living in squalor.  Her home urgently needed deep cleaning, disinfecting and furnishing with white goods.  When questioned about the withdrawals from her mother’s account, the daughter’s response was “there is no point in her being the wealthiest woman in the graveyard”.  The case doesn’t report whether any of the money which had been taken was recovered.

The judge decided that the daughter had behaved in a way which contravened her authority and was not in her mother’s best interests.  The LPA was revoked and the local authority was appointed as deputy to manage the mother’s property and financial affairs.  This wouldn’t have been the donor’s wish when the LPA was made.  If the attorney had read the terms of the appointment she might have understood her responsibilities and carried them out appropriately.

At Harris + Harris we aim to help you make the right decisions, at the right time. We have experienced solicitors in both our Wells and Frome offices who can make sure your LPA has the effect you intend, and your wishes are carried out.

Contact Annemarie Swainson or Joshua Eva in Wells or Caroline Fletcher in Frome.