It is understandable that former Court of Protection judge Denzil Lush believes the power of attorney system should be handled by the courts.
Having spent 19 years dealing with cases of abuse, Mr Lush has seen what can go wrong. What must not be forgotten, however, is that the majority of lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) do work very well.
LPAs allow you to choose who you want to manage your financial affairs, property, health and welfare if there comes a time that you no longer can. If given the right advice, you should feel confident in choosing the best and most trustworthy person for that job.
Many opt to have more than one attorney – for example, in cases where there is more than one adult child. You can place restrictions on attorneys, such as insisting that all decisions must be agreed by them all, and this often alleviates any concerns or family rows. You can even appoint a professional attorney – typically a lawyer or financial adviser – although this obviously comes with a charge.
While a deputy (the legal equivalent of a power of attorney, but appointed by the court) may be under closer supervision, there is no guarantee that they will be the person you would want. It is argued that this takes away your freedom of choice as well as being a much more costly and laborious process. I have also known cases where abuse has occurred even in these circumstances.
As the number of allegations of abuse reported by concerned care home managers, social workers and relatives has risen, so has the number of LPAs being registered. These two statistics must surely be linked.
No system is perfect. While it is quite right that vulnerable people are protected, I don’t think the ‘Big Brother’ approach of letting the courts decide everything would improve matters and may even put some people off getting LPAs at all.
James Beresford, Head of wills, tax, trusts and probate, Slater and Gordon