Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are designed to protect those who need help with, or have lost capacity, to manage their property and financial affairs and/or make decisions in relation to their health and care. But the news that astronaut Buzz Aldrin is suing his family for mismanagement of his finances, highlights the sad reality that mismanagement and abuse of LPAs is on the rise.
An LPA is meant to put in place a trusted third-party who will make decisions for those who cannot. However, the safety net can quickly turn into a nightmare if an elderly or vulnerable person has an LPA put in place when they are not mentally sound, is taken advantage of, or appoints someone who is not fit to undertake the role.
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, is now suing his two youngest children and his former manager following their attempted petition to be named as his legal guardians. The children cited his excessive spending and associations with new friends who they said intended to alienate his family as their reasons.
Mr Aldrin, 88, is suing the three in US courts, alleging they had unlawfully taken control of his finances and had prevented him from getting married. Mr Aldrin’s mental state now has to be assessed.
Though this case is based in the US, experts at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth are warning that the mismanagement and abuse of LPAs and guardianship's is becoming increasingly common.
Kelly Greig, partner and Head of Planning for Later Life at Irwin Mitchell said: “Abuse of LPAs is increasing year on year as they become more common, and sadly it’s much more prevalent than people realise. Every week there is a new story of an elderly or vulnerable person whose entire life savings have been drained in a matter of months, but these reports only scratch the surface.
"There is a complete lack of understanding surrounding LPAs and just how much power they give to a third party. They’re designed to help people but it can easily turn the other way if specialist help isn’t involved.”
Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) published a white paper report this month on the ‘incapacity crisis’ the UK faces because of the ageing population, combined with a lack of planning for the future.
They found that while 12.8m people in the UK over the age of 65 are at risk of developing dementia, only 928,000 Health and Welfare LPAs are registered. While 73 per cent of the population are concerned about losing capacity, 36 per cent of people had not prepared in any way for later life.
Kelly continued: “Planning for later life is not something people want to think about, let alone speak to family and friends about and it can all too easily be cast to the back of one’s mind. However, the UK’s adult population is at serious risk of being exploited by nefarious parties if prior planning isn’t considered.
“Most people understand that you need a Will and a pension, but LPAs haven’t really reached that level yet, despite people living longer and healthcare improving year on year.
“It is vital to seek advice at the earliest opportunity. What you may consider to be an unimportant expense may save your family a huge amount of money, time and heartache later down the line.”
Find out more about lasting powers of attorney
Published: 25 July 2018
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