John Gimbert has been found guilty of stealing a house. Not in the sense that you might be thinking, but steal a house he has still done. And not just a house – the 64 year old retired policeman – along with his son, David – has also been convicted of stealing £200,000 from his disabled cousin.
It is said that Gimbert abused the position of trust that had been afforded to him after being made power of attorney over his cousin’s estate. He was tasked with selling the disabled woman’s house, and he did so – but he sold it at a vastly reduced rate, and he sold it to his eldest son. He also spent £30,000 on vehicles, and gave his other children large cash gifts to use as deposits to buy homes.
He managed to get away with this as his cousin, Miss Trim, has no concept of money and did not understand that she had been duped. Her disability means she has severe learning difficulties, and the mind of a child.
Along with the deception, it is argued that Miss Trim did not have the mental capacity to sign the documents allowing Mr Gimbert to become her power of attorney.
A Bradford court recently heard the case of a 51 year old woman – Maxine Forster – who, along with her sister, was given power of attorney over their mother. They had arranged this because their mother, Betty, was beginning to suffer from dementia.
However, it was claimed that Maxine stole £50,000 from her mother. She is alleged to have done this over the course of six years (between 2006 and 2012) by taking small amounts at a time. This then impacted on the amount of money that was left when Betty died, and therefore Maxine’s sister, Elaine Welch, was unable to receive the inheritance that would have been due to her. Sadly, Elaine died in 2015. However, her husband continued the court battle as he believed she would have been owed money, and it was in the interests of justice if nothing else that Maxine was punished.
Mr Welch has even suggested that the stress of the situation caused Elaine’s cancer to return, after she had previously beaten it.
The judge who heard the case sentenced Maxine to 8 months in jail, although the sentence was suspended for a year.
Corrupt probate lawyer jailed
A corrupt probate lawyer who conned £300,000 from clients, has been jailed for five years.
Somerset lawyer Keith Webber's deception began in 2009, when his sister in law and her husband gave him power of attorney, thereafter paying him in excess of £62,000 over the next 12 months, in gifts, fuel and fees.
Webber then deceived another six elderly and vulnerable individuals, persuading them to make him sole executor of their wills and signing assets over into his name – even going so far as to forge one woman's will, shortly after she had died.
The disgraced lawyer used a number of illegal tactics, including persuading customers to make he and his wife gifts and charging exorbitant fees for his work.
Bristol Crown Court found him guilty of six counts of fraud and theft, and sentenced him to five years' imprisonment.
Who could fail but be saddened by reports that Jimmy Hill is suffering from dementia, having given joint powers of attorney to his wife and a solicitor.
Jimmy had the document drawn up in 2005, when he was still in good health. However, within only three years, the illness had become apparent and had affected him so badly that he was deemed incapable of looking after himself.
Jimmy is now in a nursing home and naturally, his children are concerned and frustrated that they have no say over their father’s care or what should happen to his assets. They only discovered that he had had the document prepared, in 2008, when the illness had taken a firm hold.
The two children who are raising awareness of the problems powers of attorney can bring for children of parents who have married multiple times, are Jimmy’s son and daughter from his second marriage.
Unfortunately, relations between Jimmy’s third wife Bryony and the two children – Joanna and Jamie – are now very strained as she will not consider amending the powers of attorney. This means that as things stand, Hill’s children will continue to have no say in his affairs, with the law stating that there is no legal requirement for them to be involved.
The British Bankers’ Association (BBA) has recently implemented guidelines for all banking staff in England, which should make handling the financial affairs of a loved one much easier.
In the past, the criteria and procedures associated with handling another person’s finances varied from bank to bank. Confusion reigned regarding the documents needed and processes to be followed. Another common complaint was that bank staff often had no knowledge of recognised financial arrangements. Now however, these new guidelines will ensure that the process is standardised across all banks.
For customers with a physical disability but with sound mental capacity, they may require assistance over the short term. In this instance, the helper may simply contact the person’s bank and complete the relevant form for a “third party mandate”. For longer periods of time however, it may be advisable to apply for power of attorney.
If the individual either has limited mental capacity or is looking to plan for this eventuality, then lasting power of attorney rights can be granted to their specific nominated person.
A case was publicised recently whereby a lady whose mother passed away only a few weeks ago, was sent a letter by HMRC notifying her that a £100 fine had been applied to her mother’s account, for failing to send in her self assessment tax return on time, for the year ending April 2011. HMRC also indicated that £10 each day was to be added to the fine until the end of April, should the initial fee not be paid in full.
The lady, who whilst her mother was alive, acted as power of attorney, was both horrified and confused.
As is usual, as part of the probate process, the daughter was required to identify any outstanding tax or creditors, but at that time, it was deemed that no tax was due and indeed it had been considered while the woman was alive, there was no reason to complete a self assessment form.
Concerned, as all the deceased’s bank accounts were frozen, there was no way for the woman to pay HMRC from her mother’s Estate.
On further investigation, HMRC revealed a letter had been sent out because the deceased had been expected to submit a tax return on receiving a small investment income. In addition, her daughter’s power of attorney status had not terminated on the death of her mother, as it should have done.
It apologised to the lady in question, blaming its automated systems, and admitted that no sums were in fact due.
If you receive such correspondence on behalf of a deceased person from HMRC and you feel it may be inaccurate, be sure to contact your dedicated probate professional.
Power of Attorney ensures that someone you trust can take over your day to day finances and decision making if you should be left mentally unable to make decisions because of accident or illness.
Whether or not you have made a Will, if you become unable to make rational decisions and do not have Power of Attorney in place, then your case will be passed to the Court of Protection and it could take some time for arrangements to be made.
The Court of Protection was formed in 2007 as part of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and was put in place to safeguard the assets of vulnerable individuals. However, since that time, there have been a high number of complaints about how cases are being handled.
To avoid the necessary action of dealing with the Court of Protection, ensure that you grant Lasting Power of Attorney to a trustworthy person, who can take over your affairs for you, should you become unable to carry them out yourself. Provided this individual is over 18 and has not been declared bankrupt, you can choose anyone yo like.
It is worth noting that the Lasting Power of Attorney must be registered before it is legally recognised. This means that the sooner you have it in place, the better. Even if you are in sound mental health, you can have peace of mind from knowing that the document is in place should you ever need it.