MacNairs + Wilson

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Dad Lost Everything because of Power of Attorney

A senior retired judge has warned that the power of attorney agreements lack safeguards, and said that he will never sign one himself.

His warning comes after a veteran of Normandy and Dunkirk, Frank Willett, signed a power of attorney agreement, and was left exploited by his neighbour, Colin Blake.

Lesley, Frank’s daughter, lived in South Wales, some 300 miles away from her father who live in Yorkshire.

War veteran exploited by his neighbour

In 2003, Mr Willett was in his early 80s and suffering from dementia. It was at this point that Frank decided to hand the responsibility for his financial affairs to his neighbour Mr Blake.

Blake made friends with the widower, and took Mr Willett to a solicitor’s office close to the pair. It was here that the document was made to allow Blake enduring power of attorney, and here that Mr Willett signed the agreement.

Both Lesley and he husband, Brian Felton, thought that her father’s assets were in safe hands, however, they didn’t realise that only weeks after Mr Willett had signed the papers, Blake was taking large sums of money from him.

Speaking about his actions, Mrs Felton said: ‘I didn't think the bank would allow wholesale looting of someone's account.’

She said that her father was a regular customer of the bank for years, saying that he went to the bank weekly, cashing his £70 cheque, as well as paying all of his bills by direct debit,

Having been careful with his money throughout his life, he had managed to save £60,000. This was on top of his state pension, as well as the pensions he received from the army and the civil service.

Blake withdrew almost £9,000 from Mr Willett’s account in a single transaction in February 2003. As Mr Blake was the head power of attorney for Mr Willett, the bank did not have to contact Brian and Lesley.

Mr Blake continued to withdraw money from his neighbour’s account, using the stolen money to pay his own bills.

In September 2004, after his health began to deteriorate, Mr Willett was moved to a care home.

Mr Blake registered the enduring power of attorney with the Court of Protection. This meant that he was able to sell Mr Willett’s two-bedroom bungalow in North Yorkshire.

In court, Lesley and Brian challenged Blake’s power of attorney, but they were unaware that Mr Willett’s savings account was empty, and they were unable to prove that Blake wasn’t fit to be his attorney.

The document was upheld by the judge, however he ordered Blake to provide the court with annual accounts, a measure which was more strict than normal procedures.

The couple, along with their solicitor, contacted the Public Guardianship Office and the Court of Protection, which helps oversee attorneyship, on multiple occasions, saying that they thought there were discrepancies in the accounts that were being sent to the courts. They were told that everything with the accounts was in order and satisfactory.

In 2007, while Lesley was visiting her father in his care home in Yorkshire, she found out that Blake was moving to France, selling his home and liquidating his company in the process. She also learned that her father’s care bills were not being paid.

Knowing that Blake had sold Mr Willett’s house for over £130,000, so she was confused about where this money had gone to.

The Office of the Public Guardian, a new body, investigated the case in 2008, and revoked power of attorney from Mr Blake. The court decided to appoint Lesley as deputy, meaning that under the court’s supervision, she was to be put in charge of her father’s finances.

It was at this point that Lesley realised all of her father’s money had gone. As well as his money, she discovered that all the medals that her father had earned in his 35 years in the army had also disappeared.

On top of the medals and the money disappearing, she found the her mother’s wedding ring and all her jewellery had disappeared, along with family photographs and documents.

She said that finding this out was ‘devastating’ and that the incident had taken the memories of her father.

It was at this point that she contacted the police, who began investigating Blake.

On his birthday, Lesley visited her father. She took him to visit her mother’s grave, and it was here she told him that Blake would no longer be bothering him. She told him that both his family and the staff at the care home would make sure that he was protected. She said: ‘He had tears streaming

down his face and he said: 'That's the best birthday present I've ever had.’

In 2009, after the death of her father, Lesley and Brian went to court in order to overturn the will that her father had made when under Blake’s influence.

The police found Blake in France, and he was eventually sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail.

Lesley will probably never get any of her father’s money back, but she wanted to make sure that justice was done for her father, and that she wants others to learn from her experience.

There have been changes made to power of attorney and the Court of Protection since this case.

With the Lasting Power Attorney, as it is now known, a professional, or someone who has known the subject of the order for a number of years, must provide a certificate before the document can be drawn up.

Contact Power of Attorney Solicitors Glasgow and Paisley

Macnairs + Wilson Solicitors are a law firm with offices in Paisley & Glasgow, serving clients in the areas of Renfrewshire and Glasgow. We offer all our clients a professional and personal service, taking a modern approach to practicing law, while holding traditional values. Our years of serving clients in the Glasgow, Paisley and Renfewshire areas make us industry leaders in local employment law cases.

To speak to a member of our team about power of attorney, call our Glasgow office on 0141 551 8185, our Paisley office on 0141 887 5181, or complete our online enquiry form here.

 

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