Yesterday an eminent former member of the judiciary spoke on the BBC about his concerns with Powers of Attorney. Denzil Lush was the most senior judge at the Court of Protection from 1996 until he retired in July 2016. He knows a thing or two about Powers of Attorney and Deputyship.
There has been a huge push over the years for people to make Powers of Attorney, and for good reason. We never know what might happen to us, or when. For those who suffer a brain injury, or even a physical injury, having a Power of Attorney in place can mean that if you need help your finances can be looked after immediately by someone that you trust.
However, today Denzil Lush highlighted an important concern. Some people make Powers of Attorney without having the right advice or an opportunity to think about the consequences or the alternatives. The people you appoint in your Power of Attorney may not be the best people to manage your property and finances, and it could lead to a breakdown in the family relationship. For vulnerable people it could lead to financial abuse like that which Frank Willett suffered.
The former Senior Judge said that for him, the alternative – a Deputyship – was the better option. There are many reason why he thinks that. For one, there is more supervision of the person acting on your behalf if they are a Deputy appointed by the Court. They have to produce accounts each year. They will be visited on a regular basis to make sure everything done properly and you are looked after. With Deputyships, there is also a security bond, which protects the value of your estate if the person acting on your behalf acts outside of their authority. The downside is that you will have little or no say in who is appointed to manage your financial affairs, and it can sometimes take several months for someone to get the authority they need to manage your finances. A Deputy can only be appointed once someone has lost capacity.
Former Senior Judge Lush said he would not make a Power of Attorney. For him, the Deputyship systems was a better one. For me, the Power of Attorney system would work well. This is a personal choice that we all need to consider. It’s about what is right in your own circumstances, and getting the right advice.