As Managing Director of a niche Court of Protection practice, Andy Riddle manages the financial affairs of mentally incapable individuals.
In this interview conducted by Lawyer Monthly, he discusses more about his role and how he guarantees the best outcome for his clients.
As a Thought Leader in your field, can you think of ways in which the Government or authorities could address issues elders may face when needing assistance with managing properties and finances and health and welfare?
Simply put – consider putting in place a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for both Property & Financial Affairs, and Health & Welfare. It really is all about planning for the future!
According to an Old Mutual Wealth report from November 2016, only 3% of the UK population had such instruments in place. Thus, there seems to be a huge amount of work to be done by the Government in looking to promote such instruments.
Can you share ways in which you address the client’s best interests when acting as a lasting power of attorney? What challenges may arise and how do you overcome such challenges?
Acting in the client’s (or donor in this example) best interests is one of the five key principles set out in Section 1 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, of which we are required to comply/adhere to.
When acting as a Property & Financial Affairs attorney, some of the ways we ensure we are doing the best for our
client may include:
• Ensuring all state benefits that they are eligible for are claimed;
• Checking excess funds earning the best rate of interest;
• Investing large amounts of capital with suitable investment firms; and,
• Exploring the best way of funding any residential care costs moving forward. This may be via an Immediate Care Needs Annuity.
When acting as Health & Welfare attorney we have the donor complete what we call a ‘Letterof Wishes’. This is a document covering ten points about various aspects when it comes to their
health and welfare.
Challenges that may arise could include:
• Dealing with family members who may not always have their loved one’s best interests at heart;
• If certain clauses are not inserted into the instrument, I cannot act on any such requests that I do not have authority to act on; and,
• The point in time when the donor is starting to lose capacity. If I have any doubt I will always request that a formal capacity of assessment is undertaken.
How do you ensure your client’s family or close relative’s interest does not conflict with the best solution at hand? What would you advise is the best approach to take in such a situation?
By always acting in our client’s best interests and not that of the clients family or close relative!
We have usually been appointed as either an Appointee, Attorney or Deputy because of a number of possible reasons where there are family present who could take on such roles, but for whatever reason it has been decided that a professional would be the more suitable option. Such family members are aware of this, and sometimes they may require a “gentle reminder” of why we were instructed in the first instance.
How have you seen the perception of mental capacity and attitudes towards addressing vulnerable adults change over your years of practice, and how has this affected your role?
The Alzheimer’s Society predicts that by 2025 over a million people within the UK will be affected, in one way or another, by dementia; likewise, mental health is certainly a hot topic and when Theresa May became Prime Minister of this country she pledged a number of new policies around mental health. Mental capacity and dealing with vulnerable adults is going to be one of the seismic shifts that this country will have to deal with in the not too distant future. I believe the general public has become a lot more aware of such issues facing vulnerable adults, and this may be due to more awareness generally throughout society. Unfortunately for our clients (and subsequently myself and my firm) the service we receive from banks, financial firms, utility providers (etc.), when dealing on behalf of our vulnerable clients still leaves a lot to be desired. This is despite British Banking Association guidelines been introduced over the years as to how banks should deal/interact with vulnerable customers or their financially appointed representative.