North East Connected

Latimer Hinks warns the public to think twice before signing power of attorney documents

Latimer Hinks Solicitors is also reminding members of the public to think carefully before signing Lasting Power of Attorney documents, after a retired senior judge issued warnings as to the risks associated with these documents.

Following comments from retired senior judge, Denzil Lush, the Darlington law firm is emphasising the importance of you choosing an Attorney who can be trusted implicitly to act in your best interests.

Lasting Powers of Attorney are legal documents, which enable an individual to choose a third party to make financial and/or welfare decisions on the individual’s behalf particularly should the individual be unable to do so personally.

Denzil Lush, who was for more than 20 years the senior judge in the Court of Protection  – the Court managing the interests of those who do not have capacity to look after themselves –  has said that the public should have a greater understanding of the risks of signing a Power of Attorney, and has vowed to never sign one himself.

Mr Lush, the author of the definitive legal guide relating to Powers of Attorney, says that he was deterred after seeing first-hand during his career how Powers of Attorney can have “devastating” effects on family relationships.

In an interview with Radio 4’s Today Programme, Mr Lush also suggested that the alternative – the process of appointment of Deputies by the Court of Protection – has been “demonised”.

Anne Elliott, Chief Executive at Latimer Hinks, believes that there is merit in Mr Lush’s comments, but that each and every case should be approached on an individual basis taking into account the circumstances of the individual and the family dynamics. She said: “We will never know the number of cases in which someone has abused their position following his/her appointment as Attorney but probably the majority are implemented without any issue.

“Unfortunately, however, there have been cases where the Attorney appointed to handle someone else’s affairs has not had the other person’s best interests at heart and has abused the position. In his past role Denzil Lush will be more aware than most of cases of abuse. This is why whenever we work with a client to prepare a Power of Attorney document, we always try to understand family dynamics and emphasise the importance of choosing someone they trust totally. Ultimately you have to trust them ‘with your life’, because they will potentially have control over it.”

“If a client has any doubts about whether the person they plan to appoint as Attorney will always do the right thing by them, then they should think twice and/or consider someone else completely trust-worthy or take the path Mr Lush suggests and appoint no-one. Then, if the worst happens, the Court will appoint a deputy.”

Mrs Elliott believes that too many people are not seeking proper legal help when drafting a Power of Attorney: “It’s too easy for people to download a Power of Attorney online and follow a box-ticking exercise. In doing so they often fail to fully appreciate the implications and power of the documents and, importantly, the risks associated with them. Additionality, in this sort of situation people can be more easily persuaded by friends and family to choose an Attorney who may not necessarily be the best choice. Solicitors are duty-bound to ensure the best and safest outcome for all parties. These documents are invaluable in the right hands, potentially lethal in the wrong.”

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