‘Mum’s account has been emptied, what can I do?’
Our legal helpline receives regular calls from people who are concerned that a vulnerable person’s account has been emptied. The calls often come from children who believe their elderly mother or father’s bank account has been plundered by someone who holds a power of attorney.
The financial abuse of elderly people is becoming a growing problem, along with power of attorney fraud. When this occurs what legal options are open to family members? And what can be done to recover the money that has been lost or stolen?
Power of attorney fraud
Attorneys have very wide powers and are therefore required by law to act in good faith and in the best interest of the person whose financial affairs they are managing. They should respect that person’s confidentiality and keep accounts of all financial dealings separate from their own affairs. There are also strict rules on gifts that can be made out of that person’s funds.
Where you suspect that someone who holds a power of attorney has been mishandling a person’s finances you can report your concerns to the Office of the Public Guardian. This option is also available where the person you suspect has been appointed as a deputy by the Court of Protection. The OPG has the power to cancel the power of attorney, freeze assets and appoint a new attorney.
In certain circumstances it may be appropriate to report the matter to the police, which could result in the attorney being prosecuted.
Legal action can also be taken in the civil courts to recover any money that has been lost or stolen. Such a claim would need to be taken by the person who has suffered the financial abuse. If they lack the capacity to take that action then someone can act on their behalf. Where that person has passed away then action can be taken by the executor of their estate or any beneficiary who has missed out financially.
Financial mismanagement by people without legal authority
Where someone manages a person’s finances without formal legal authority (such as a power of attorney) then they will still have a legal duty to keep detailed financial records and be ready to justify any transactions which take place.
Again, if there is financial abuse then civil and criminal proceedings are an option and a claim can be made for recovery of the financial losses that have been suffered.
How we can help
If you are concerned that your loved one has suffered financial abuse and their bank account has been emptied then you can call our free legal helpline for guidance.
Our specialist lawyers are able to assist family members who have lost out and are often able to work on a no win, no fee basis.
Call us on 0333 888 0404 for a free case assessment or send an email with details of the case to us at [email protected]