Attorney On Trial For Acting Dishonestly
Graeme Prance, who formed a rugby friendship with older rugby fan, Ken Elliott, has been accused of fraudulently stealing Mr Elliott’s son’s inheritance.
Richard Elliott had a fractious relationship with his father Ken and only found out that he had been overlooked to inherit the family bungalow on the day his father passed away.
Ken Elliott had changed his Will shortly before he died at the age of 85. In the amended Will Mr Elliott left his property to Graeme Prance and the remaining assets and money to his son.
However, Mr Prance stands accused of pilfering over £60,000 of Ken Elliott’s savings, and Richard Elliott’s inheritance, in the aftermath of being appointed as Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
In addition to a £15,000 gift to buy a Mercedes Van and Elliott paying for a foreign holiday for Prance and his wife, many unauthorised transactions were also found on a number of Elliott’s accounts.
£14,575 was taken out of a Ken Elliott’s Post Office account, £9,550 stolen from his NatWest account and a staggering £25,469 from Elliott’s current account.
Although his son was expected to inherit the £60,000, Prance stands accused of spending the majority of the savings in Ken Elliott’s accounts, meaning his son would inherit very little.
Prosecutor Nick Gedge said: “Prance could only use his Power of Attorney by acting in the best interests of Mr Elliott. Once Power of Attorney had been granted the pattern of spending changed dramatically.”
Whilst the pair may have shared a love for rugby, the figures seem to indicate that Ken Elliott’s trust was exploited by Mr Prance once he was appointed as attorney.
The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) reported that it received 5,327 safeguarding referrals in 2016/17. Of those referrals, the OPG investigated 1,266 instances of suspected abuse in this time which equated to a 45% increase in the number of cases investigated a year earlier. 272 of the investigated cases resulted in an application to the Court of Protection.
Last year, the OPG was instructed to make 1,362 investigation visits to assess the actions of attorneys or deputies. This figure had increased by 32% from the 1,030 investigation visits carried out in 2016; highlighting both the OPG’s ability to investigate safeguarding issues, and more worryingly, the increase in deputies or attorneys exploiting their trusted position.
The authenticity over the current Will could also be disputed as Richard Elliott and Ken Elliott lived together in the £212,000 Cardiff bungalow.
Richard Elliott said: “On the day my dad died Graeme said to me: ‘Did you realise your dad left me the bungalow?’ He said I was not to worry because I could carry on living there rent free and he would not kick me out on the street.”
“I know for a fact that my dad had left the bungalow to me in his Will. This has unfortunately been taken off me – it breaks my heart. It was stolen from me, it was my inheritance. My mum left it to my dad to be passed on to me when he died.”
Whilst Mr Prance claims that all the expenditure prior to Mr Elliott’s death was authorised by Ken Elliott, the case highlights the responsibility of an attorney in acting in the best interests of the Donor.
Have you dealt with similar situations where the attorney has been accused of acting dishonestly? How common is this situation? What should be done to prevent it in the future?