In a recent judgment delivered by the Court of Protection, a local council was successful in wresting control over an old man’s finances from a family member.

The 91-year-old man has been resident in a care home for more than a year and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. He also suffers from a delusional disorder which has led to anti-social behaviour and to his being sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 on three separate occasions. On the last of these occasions, he was released to the care home where he now lives.

It was discovered that a number of withdrawals had been made from the man’s bank account. Some £2,000 had been taken out since he went into care and the circumstances of the withdrawals were such that there was a ‘safeguarding of vulnerable adults’ alert, and an investigation regarding this is ongoing. The investigation concerns the role of the man’s niece in looking after his finances.

It was also revealed that he had made a will which leaves his entire estate (worth approximately £750,000) to his niece, replacing an earlier will which divided his estate equally between his nieces and nephews.

In considering the application from the local council to be appointed the man’s ‘deputy’ and manage his property and financial affairs, the Court heard deeply conflicting statements from council employees and the niece.

Among the more telling evidence was commentary from council employees about the tantrums and aggressive behaviour shown by the niece when it was suggested that she had failed to put her uncle’s interests above her own when dealing with his affairs.

The judge hearing the case concluded that he would be wary of appointing the niece as the man’s deputy ‘in circumstances which by no stretch of the imagination can be described as free of conflict of interest and undue influence’.

The case illustrates the importance of ensuring that when you are acting on someone else’s behalf, you put their interests first at all times and can demonstrate that this is the case. It is also advisable when dealing with social workers and other council employees to maintain an even temper.


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