Life Insurance  

Elderly woman’s estate ‘looted’ by her deputies

Two court-appointed deputies entrusted to oversee their relative’s estate while she resided in a care home will have to repay more than £200,000 after making unauthorised gifts, a court has found.

Senior judge Denzil Lush, of the court of protection in London, found that the deputies, the niece and great niece of a 92-year old dementia sufferer from Derbyshire, had contravened their authority after spending £277,811 on gifts and expenses, and acted as if they had “licence to loot”.

The elderly woman, named in the judgement as GM, had not prepared a will, and was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2007.

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GM’s niece and great niece, named as MJ and JM in the judgement, were jointly appointed as her deputies in August 2010. The court estimated her estate to be valued at roughly £500,000.

The judgement revealed that, in October 2011, the deputies applied for retrospective approval for “gifts and donations” made before they had obtained the funds, and future “gifts and donations”, citing them to be “in accordance” with GM’s wishes.

The applicants sought approval for gifts of £231,259, and expenses of £46,552. The gifts included Rolex and Omega watches totalling more than £35,000, and cash gifts in excess of £100,000 in addition to charitable donations of more than £57,000.

Solicitors acting on behalf of the Office of the Public Guardian said the gifts had been “excessive”, a breach of fiduciary duty of care, and not in the best interests of GM.

The judge ruled that the deputies would be relieved of their duties, however, to date, no order to recover the funds has been made ahead of a potential statutory will application.

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Jeremy Davies, co-founder of care fees planning trade body Symponia, said: “This case demonstrates the need to obtain proper advice, and to appoint power of attorney when planning for later life.”