Opinion

Safeguarding Power of Attorney

21st August 2017

Safeguarding Power of Attorney

Giving someone the Power of Attorney over your financial affairs is a major step for anyone and the level of trust required is immense, which is why we so often hear of the system being abused and people losing their money.

Retired senior judge Denzil Lush has raised serious questions about how robust the system is and how well people are safeguarded.

There are warnings being made that the current Power of Attorney (POA) system in England and Wales lacks proper safeguards, with little focus on official financial abuse data – despite local authority safeguarding returns indicting it is the third most common form of abuse.

A Power of Attorney is a legal document allowing someone to make your financial decisions for you when you are no longer able to. Last year, almost 650,000 applications were made and there are around 2.5m currently in place.

Denzil Lush advocated using the legal alternative – the appointment of deputies by the Court of Protection.

However, should we really turn our back on a system simply because, in a percentage of cases, people are financially abused? After all, no one stops driving cars because there are a high number of fatal accidents! By saying no to all POAs, we risk leaving people vulnerable during an emotional and stressful time in their lives.

In continuing with the system, it does not lessen the suffering of those who are financially abused and there does seem to be a need for stronger regulation of those given Power of Attorney. Should stringent safeguards be introduced, such as security bonds to address potential financial abuse and regular reviews of each case held to ensure the person’s best interests are being catered for? There are strong arguments for such moves.

However, we need to take a balanced approach, as it cannot be ignored that by taking specialist advice the system works well for many and should still be considered as an option when the time comes.

Power of Attorney are important, valuable documents and, as such, taking specialist legal advice is the key with ‘quick fix’ POAs downloaded from the internet to be discouraged.

Deciding who should take over your financial affairs is a major decision and should not be taken lightly. It can put a strain on family relations and friendships and careful thought should be given to both who you appoint as your advisers and who will have Power of Attorney.

However, in instructing your specialist advisers, they can act for you by robustly telling your attorney what their duties are and set out the framework from the start.

With strong legal advice, drawing up a Power of Attorney isn’t something to be afraid of, but it is a system that should be treated with respect – each step carefully considered with proper advice.

Do you have a responsibility for safeguarding in your organisation?

Higgs & Sons are hosting a seminar that will examine the law surrounding safeguarding for children and vulnerable adults and offer advice and information on key aspects of the law. Taking place Tuesday 19 September 2017, the course is free of charge to attend and includes refreshments and 1 hour CPD. For more details and to book your place, please click here.

 

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