Recent figures show that the number of Attorneys investigated by the Office of the Public Guardian (‘OPG’) has increased by more than 40% and this has led to renewed concerns regarding the effectiveness of Lasting Powers of Attorney (‘LPA’s). This increase might seem alarming however, it could be caused by the OPG’s Compliance Unit taking on a more proactive role in examining the conduct of Attorneys.
Such a proactive approach serves as a warning to any Attorneys not complying with their legal duties.
I have been involved in cases acting for vulnerable clients where there has been financial misconduct by an Attorney. These cases are often very sad and it can be difficult to rectify the loss and damage caused by an Attorney who wilfully abused their position. However, not all OPG investigations concern deliberate wrong doing.
I have also acted for Attorneys who have been subject to investigations by the OPG where they have been misguided or made mistakes. In these cases, where the Attorney obtains legal advice at an early stage it is possible in certain circumstances to avoid the costs and delay of contentious court proceedings.
I welcome the OPG’s stance. They needed to step up their scrutiny of Attorneys. Vulnerable people as well as Attorneys need support and protection.
I would suggest that any Attorney who is uncertain regarding a particular decision that they have made or are contemplating should seek advice from a solicitor specialising in Court of Protection and Mental Capacity Law. When making decisions on behalf of vulnerable people who lack capacity it is important to ensure that decisions are made in their best interests and within the legal authority conferred on them. Seeking independent advice offers additional safeguards to the person lacking capacity and also protects the attorney from investigation or accusations of wrongdoing. This also applies to financial deputies who require advice or assistance.