A woman who sold her mother's house in order to buy her a more suitable home has been left with a large legal costs bill as a result of her action. Her mother is incapacitated by dementia and unable to look after her own affairs.
The resulting court case shows how important it is for anyone acting on behalf of another person to be scrupulously careful and to take professional advice whenever they have doubts about the appropriateness of any action they intend to take.
The elderly woman is looked after by her daughter and her daughter's husband, and the court praised the care they give her. However, when the arrangements were being made to buy the new property, the woman's son was not fully informed. He was also not aware that his mother's pension income had been diverted into his sister's account.
The daughter eventually made an application to the Court of Protection for legal authority to manage her mother's assets. This brought the previous dealings, and the fact that she had acted without proper legal authority, to the attention of the Court, which found that the arrangements had been made without sufficient regard for:
- the financial and emotional vulnerability of the person who lacks capacity; and
- the requirements for formal, and legal, authorisation for the family's actions, specifically in relation to property and financial affairs.
Her brother applied to the Court objecting to her appointment as deputy.
The Court had considerable sympathy for the daughter, and the judge was prepared to accept that she had 'embarked on this project with her mother's best interests at the forefront of her mind'. However, within a short time, 'her own best interests and those of her husband dominated the financial arrangement'.
The Court ruled that the daughter should pay 80 per cent of the costs of the deputy of the Court and two thirds of her brother's legal bill. The total legal costs exceeded £70,000.