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New rules relating to powers of attorney could leave elderly people vulnerable

By z4027672030, Nov 25 2015 01:05PM

In recent years, there have been an increased number of reported “financial abuse” cases of the elderly, where carers and attorneys have been convicted of inappropriately spending their friends’ or relatives’ money, which has lead to the government creating a new Act of Parliament to protect vulnerable people.

For the first time, the Government have given financial abuse a legal definition under the Care Act, designed to protect people who are unable to protect themselves in one way or another.

Although some issues are more clear cut when defined as financial abuse, it is still surprisingly common for people with good intentions to end up in a situation where they are financially abusing a person in the eyes of the law. This new addition to the act sets out to make clearer what exactly counts as financial abuse in legal terms – whether you are an appointed attorney, a court-appointed deputy or have casually agreed to look after someone’s financial affairs, the rules are all the same.

One of the most important guidelines which has been given by the Ministry of Justice is that you must ensure that all financial decisions are in the person’s best interests, doing everything you can in order to help the other person understand the decision. If that person is lacking in mental capacity, for example losing their memory as a result of dementia, then you must take all practical steps to help them come to their own decision.

When deciding the person’s budget, you must also take into account their previous expenditures and spend the money accordingly – if you wish to make gifts seen as out of the ordinary, permission for this must be obtained from court, which involves a court order costing £400.

The Ministry of Justice have also made it clear that attorneys must not profit from any decisions taken on the other person’s behalf, or change their will to enable the attorney to profit. It has also been highlighted that you must keep your finances separate from theirs at all times.

One of the key changes to appointing an attorney, however, may leave elderly people increasingly open to financial abuse. In July, the requirement of a second signature from a professional or family member for verification purposes was removed, as it was claimed it would help to speed up the process of granting powers of attorney. In order to avoid the possibility of somebody else such as a relative taking advantage, it is suggested that the elderly establish a power of attorney sooner rather than later.

If you’re seeking to have your financial affairs looked after in the best way possible, you may also wish to take out a lasting power of attorney. North Devon firm Taylors Solicitors are on hand to help with all of your lasting power of attorney needs, offering a friendly, professional and efficient service.

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