Sunday, April 14, 2024
HomeCulture WarGrasping siblings and the dangerous power of attorney

Grasping siblings and the dangerous power of attorney


COME in and make a will, the solicitors advertise, and while you are here, make a lasting power of attorney (LPA). It all sounds so legal, so normal, so safe, so sane, and yet the LPA and its previous incarnation, the EPA (enduring power of attorney, changed in 2007), is a powerful legal instrument which can be used by the persons you name as attorney to rob you of both liberty and assets. As a solicitor I consulted noted, you must implicitly trust those you appoint. The reason for this is that there is little to no oversight of an LPA. It sounds legal, it is legal, but oh the havoc, the heartache, this instrument can wreak.

When my mother mooted a move from Hampshire, where I live, to London, where most of my four siblings are based, truth be told I was relieved. She was becoming domineering and demanding, very much like her father before her, or as she put it: ‘He gave me ‘ell and now it’s your turn.’ So I did nothing to dissuade her. After all, she said: ‘I’ve watched your child grow to school age, now I can do the same with my other grandchildren.’ It sounded so reasonable in the hurly- burly whirlwind of life: with a disabled husband, child and work I was pleased to wave her off to her new life in safety with the rest of her family. ‘Fair enough,’ I thought, along with, ‘what’s the point of multiple siblings, if only one (me) does any heavy lifting in the elder care/support category?’ Did this thought fill me with clarity, trepidation, foreboding, like a black beady-eyed crow cawing a warning from my shoulder? Not a bit of it: I had absolutely no inkling of the events about to unfold. The thought that ‘they’ve done nothing before, why now?’ certainly never occurred to me.

The trouble partly was that, taking after my father, I am scrupulously honest, and my younger self had no understanding that while I would never dream of stealing liberty and money from my own mother and siblings, others very well might. I should have taken more note of Shakespeare’s King Lear and realised that all fiction is based on reality.

Two weeks after arriving in London my mother signed something with no idea of its import except ‘so we can help you with your shopping, Mum’. She complained later, though she would not repeat this, that my sister was a bully who banged the table with her fist until she agreed to sign. This was so different from the intelligent, cultured urbanite I knew that I found it hard to accept. Since my mother was prone to hyperbole, I hoped it was this. She used to say ‘nothing like a good drama’; she was prone to creating her own, in her own life, so I was still unalerted and disbelieving.

Two months later Mum had been declared mentally incompetent, deposited in a home, and her money gone. It is no use being listed in a will to receive a quarter of someone’s estate if all that is left is buttons!

My husband and I spoke to the Court of Protection, but it appeared they could do nothing because Mum was mentally competent when signing the EPA, even though facing the overwhelming psychological odds of several adult children pressing her to sign.

This was 20 years ago, so why am I writing about old history? Recently my father-in-law died, then my husband (obviously his son) also died, and guess who should be visiting my mother-in-law, staying overnight in a hotel to do so? Yep, you’ve got it. The siblings are back and are now courting Nan, my mother-in-law. I didn’t even realise that they knew her. As they say, a leopard never changes its spots. Being experienced, I have warned her regarding the risks. ‘Don’t sign anything,’ I screeched. ‘Not even a shopping list.’ Especially not a shopping list.

While researching this I told a solicitor the saga and she sadly reiterated what is so often not said: you need implicit trust in those you choose for this, otherwise, yep, this happens.

Hardly surprisingly I have decided not to use this instrument.

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Lucy Ray
Lucy Ray
I am a mother, former secretary admin bod, and for the last nearly twenty years have cared for my disabled husband, who is recently deceased.

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