Two deputies have been named and shamed publicly after the Court of Protection accused them of “daylight robbery” and refused them a share of their victim’s estate.
The offending deputies were appointed by the Court of Protection in August 2010. Mrs Meek, the vulnerable person, had fallen out with her own relatives and so the Court felt the most appropriate candidates would be her late husband’s niece and great-niece, Janet Miller and Margaret Johnson (“the Deputies”).
The Order granted the Deputies power to make reasonable donations to charities which Mrs Meek was known to support and to make gifts to friends and relatives on customary occasions such as birthdays and weddings. In line with Mental Capacity Act 2005 the Deputies were obliged to have regard to the size of the £500,000 estate when making gifts.
By October 2011 the Deputies had spent approximately £250,000 on gifts to themselves and their families. These consisted of expensive jewellery, cars and computers as well as cash. The Deputies applied to the Court for retrospective approval of the gifts and also claimed an additional £46,000 in expenses. Senior Judge Lush accused the Deputies of treating the Deputyship Order as “a licence to loot” and revoked the Deputyship Order, appointing a panel deputy in their place.
The Deputies maintained throughout that they had done nothing wrong but had simply misunderstood the paperwork. Accordingly, following the Court’s decision, the disgraced Deputies applied to the Court for a Statutory Will to be prepared in relation to Mrs Meek’s estate. The Mental Capacity Act allows the Court to order the preparation of a will for a person who has lost the mental capacity to make one themselves. Each of the Deputies claimed to be entitled to half of the estate.
In December last year the matter came before HHJ Hodge QC who shared the same distaste for the Deputies as LJ Lush. He found that the Deputies had treated their appointment as a “lottery win” and believed that, had Mrs Meek been aware of their actions, she would have disinherited them. The Court ordered for a Will to be prepared for Mrs Meek bequeathing three-quarters of her estate to charity and the balance to a friend of her daughter (who had died in 2010). The Deputies were ordered to reimburse Mrs Meek’s estate for the unauthorised gifts.
Further, the Court ordered that the case be reported without the usual anonymity that Court of Protection cases attract. This was permitted as Mrs Meek died shortly after the decision. In the full glare of publicity it is clear that the Court of Protection wishes to remind deputies of the strict financial regulations by which they are governed and to deter others from engaging in conduct which may exceed the limits of their authority.
Myerson Solicitors LLP provide specialist advice relating to wills, probate, probate disputes, inheritance tax planning and powers of attorney to clients in Manchester and Cheshire.