The sad tale of a WW2 veteran, who lost all his money after setting up an enduring power of attorney (EPA) with an unscrupulous neighbour, shows how important it is that an EPA is taken out with due care.
An EPA is a legal document that allows someone to make financial decisions for an individual when they can no longer do so. In this case, Frank Willett, who was in his 80s and suffering from dementia, was separated by hundreds of miles from his daughter, Lesley, who trusted her father’s neighbour, Colin Blake.
However, in 2003, Blake started taking out large sums of money from Frank’s bank account within weeks of the document being signed, and took almost £9,000 within one week alone. Meanwhile, although Frank had been a customer at the bank for years and had regular, small outgoings, because the EPA had been signed, the bank did not bring the new transactions to Lesley’s attention.
Eventually, when Frank had to move to a care home in 2004 because of ill health, Blake registered the EPA with the Court of Protection, which allowed him to sell Frank’s home. By the time Lesley challenged the EPA, she could not prove that Blake was unfit to be her father’s attorney. She tried to bring the discrepancies in her father’s accounts to the attention of the Public Guardianship Office and the Court of Protection, which oversees attorneyship, but was told that everything was “satisfactory”.
By the time Blake had sold his own home in 2007 and moved to France, Frank’s care home bills were in arrears, all his medals had been sold and even her mothers wedding ring and family photographs had disappeared. Blake even tried to get what was left of Mr Willett’s estate after his death in 2009 and his daughter had to go to court to overturn a will he had influenced before his move.
When the police finally investigated Blake, tracked him down in France and took him to court, he pleaded guilty to theft and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. However, that will not get any of the money or family memories back.
Lesley is now at pains to warn others of the dangers of setting up an EPA without due care. It is now far simpler to register an EPA and relatives of the individual are not necessarily contacted. It is therefore vital that care is taken when drawing one up.