Yet another financial abuse case. Once again, one where the Deputy or Attorney would have benefited greatly from having one of my coffee mugs with “It’s not your Fucking Money” printed on it.
Re SF 2015
In this case, Sheila who is now 87 had appointed her son Martin to manage her financial affairs through an Enduring Power of Attorney.
Martin had withdrawn from her funds, £117,289.45 for “out of pocket expenses”, whilst not paying his mother’s care home fees which had been mounting up and had reached £29,000 in arrears.
In justifying this, he stated that he had been ‘billing’ at a daily rate of £400 per day, which is what he would charge in his role as a consultant. This then included billing his own mother for visiting her. Nice.
“In my first witness statement dated 30 March 2015 I stated … that Martin had claimed a total of £49,143.19 since the EPA was registered on 7 August 2009. In Martin’s witness statement he has stated that Hugh James Solicitors sent him a cheque for the amount of £68,146.26. Martin has stated he paid this into his own account in part payment for the costs he had incurred. This amount added to the £49,143.19 amounts to a total of £117,289.45. The Public Guardian believes the amount of £117,289.45 is an excessive amount to claim for out of pocket expenses.
Martin states that he charged for the visits he made to Sheila when he would visit to check for signs of physical abuse due to her mistreatment at [her previous residential care home in Llandrindod Wells]. Martin is an attorney under the EPA, which covers property and financial affairs only. Therefore his visits to check for physical abuse, even if they were necessary to safeguard Sheila, were not part of his role as attorney. Therefore, the Public Guardian believes Martin was not entitled to claim expenses for these visits.”
- As regards the amount of remuneration he has paid himself, Martin said in his witness statement dated 1 October 2015 that:
“In my view these are not excessive, considering I have been fighting this battle with Powys LHB since 2004. If I had not spent the large amounts of time on this case, then my mother’s estate would still be illegally paying the full costs of care, and the 2013 compensation would never have been forthcoming. Finally, I have not taken any gifts from the estate (which could have been in the region of £33,000 from 2004 to 2015).
- At the hearing Martin said that he had charged his mother a daily rate of £400 for visiting her and for the work he put into the claims against Powys Local Health Board. This was his usual daily charging rate when he was a self-employed independent consultant prior to his retirement.
- In response to the Public Guardian’s application generally, Martin said:
“I see no need to replace myself. I am the sole heir and because of my mother’s dementia and current poor health, there is no need to protect the estate’s financial interests, which are effectively mine.The OPG have now recommended that [a deputy] is appointed from their own panel. I would expect any appointed deputy from the OPG to seek to assist the Police in bringing criminal charges against Powys LHB, and to recover the monies owed from Powys LHB. If this is not part of the remit then appointing will be a waste of time and any costs incurred will be to the detriment of my mother’s estate and my own financial interest in my mother’s estate. However, it is apparent that the OPG do not want to pursue the recovery of monies owed from the Powys LHB. The OPG appears to be acting on behalf of Powys CC and Powys LHB, and as such is effectively colluding in their fraudulent behaviour. Consequently I believe that the OPG is not a fit or proper organisation to protect the interest of my mother’s estate.
On the face of it, the OPG’s desire for me to repay money from my mother’s estate makes little sense. I am the sole beneficiary of the estate and any restitution I made would come straight back to me on my mother’s death, which considering her present state of health, is likely to be sooner rather than later. “
Once again, we have a Deputy or Attorney mistakenly thinking that becoming a Deputy or Attorney is actually Cate Blanchett for early access to an inheritance that they expect to acquire. Nor is it, as he claimed, the purpose of the role to safeguard his own inheritance.
All of this led the Judge, Senior Judge Lush to conclude this :-
- One would be hard pressed to find a more callous and calculating attorney, who has so flagrantly abused his position of trust.
- Martin hasn’t paid his mother a personal allowance since June 2014 because toiletries were free in her previous residential care home and he resents having to pay for them now in the nursing home in which she has been living since February 2013. He even begrudges her having her hair tinted.
- The assertion that he hasn’t taken “any gifts from the estate” adds nothing to his credibility. If anything, it highlights his lack of it. He was referring to the £3,000 annual exemption for inheritance tax (‘IHT’) purposes, but Sheila’s estate is well below the threshold at which IHT becomes chargeable and no one is entitled, as of right, to receive a gift of £3,000 each year.
- As regards the non-payment of Sheila’s care fees, I agree with the Public Guardian’s stance that “whilst Martin attempts to resolve the dispute (with Powys Local Health Board), it would be in Sheila’s best interests that he continues to pay her care fees.”
- There is no evidence to support Martin’s suggestion that “if my mother’s care fees are paid from now onwards, Powys LHB will seek to avoid refunding monies owed.” The letter from Powys Local Health Board to the OPG, dated 12 March 2015, to which I referred in paragraph 21 above, shows that the Health Board has acted in good faith and reimbursed any fees that were overpaid in the past. Martin, on the other hand, has persistently acted in bad faith.
- As for his claim for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses for acting as his mother’s attorney, paragraph 6 of Part A of the prescribed form of Enduring Power of Attorney, which he and his mother signed on 23 October 2004, stated that:
“Your attorney(s) can recover the out-of-pocket expenses of acting as your attorney(s). If your attorney(s) are professional people, for example solicitors or accountants, they may be able to charge for their professional services as well. You may wish to provide expressly for remuneration of your attorney(s).”
- Sheila did not expressly provide for Martin to be remunerated and if he intended to charge a daily rate of £400 for acting as her attorney, he should have applied to the court for authorisation pursuant to paragraph 16(2)(b)(iii) of Schedule 4 to the Mental Capacity Act 2005. By not doing so, he behaved in a way that contravened his authority and was not in the donor’s best interests.
- The Public Guardian believes the amount of £117,289.45 is an excessive amount to claim for out of pocket expenses. I would put it more strongly than that. I believe that charging one’s elderly mother a daily rate of £400 for visiting and acting as her attorney is repugnant.
- Martin suggested that the appointment of a panel deputy would be a waste of time and money because his mother’s estate is effectively already his. I disagree. The panel deputy will, for the first time in eleven years, place Sheila at the centre of the decision-making process, rather than view the preservation and enhancement of Martin’s inheritance as the paramount consideration.
- Having regard to all the circumstances, therefore, I am satisfied that Martin is unsuitable to be Sheila’s attorney, and I shall revoke the EPA and direct the Public Guardian to cancel its registration. I shall also direct an officer of the court to invite a panel deputy to apply to be appointed as Sheila’s deputy for property and affairs.
Is he the most callous attorney ever?
Well, in trying to think of a worse one, I can only come up with Harvey Dent from the Batman universe, the District Attorney who later became a gangster named Two-Face. [And to be honest, that may be slightly unfair on Harvey – though possibly not as unfair as Tommy Lee Jones portrayal of him in Batman Forever, in which he was so hammy he needed a bodyguard to protect him from David Cameron between takes ]
Heads I bill my mother £400 for visiting her, tails I deny her hair-tinting treatment