Over recent weeks, Tollers has taken robust measures to protect our staff whilst allowing them to continue to provide our clients with professional advice from their homes. Our staff remain contactable at all times by telephone or by e-mail.

Face to face appointments with our clients have been suspended until further notice unless they are absolutely critical and even then they are only able to proceed provided that none of the prospective participants are at risk or displaying any symptoms.

In order to continue to service our clients during this difficult time, Tollers’ Trusts and Estates Team have put together a faster process to provide Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney with a professional and efficient turnaround.

All you need is the ability to communicate with us via video link, whether that be using WhatsApp, Skype or Zoom, and a third party (friend or neighbour) who can witness your signature.

Making a Will with Tollers during the COVID-19 restrictions is easy: –

  1. Contact our offices by phone or e-mail to arrange an initial discussion.
  2. Provide your instructions to one of our experts by video call. This will include full names and addresses for those you wish to include in your Will.
  3. A draft Will is then sent out to you for approval with our terms of business.
  4. Once approved, a Will can be sent to you with instructions for completion at home. Guidance can be provided by phone or video call if required during your Will signing and you will need at least two independent people to witness you signing.
  5. Once completed, the Wills can be returned to Tollers for safe storage and a copy of the documents will be provided for your records.

All of our Wills are prepared for fixed fees from £225 for a single Will and £360 for mirror Wills. All Tollers Wills include free registration on the Certainty National Wills Register and ongoing storage of your original Will with Tollers.

Our Lasting Power of Attorney process is equally stress-free: –

  1. Contact our offices by phone or e-mail to arrange an initial discussion.
  2. Provide your instructions to one of our experts by video call. This will include full names, dates of birth and addresses for those you wish to act as Attorneys.
  3. Terms of business will be sent to you for signature and return.
  4. Your Lasting Powers of Attorney will be sent to you with instructions for completion at home. You will need to arrange a third party witness and another video call with us to complete the documents.
  5. Once signed, your documents can be returned to Tollers for further action and registration.

Our Lasting Powers of Attorney are prepared for fixed fees, depending on the number of documents you wish to make. A member of the team will be happy to provide you with a quote based on your requirements.

To find out more about our comprehensive services click here https://www.tollers.co.uk/wills-trusts-and-estates/ and to arrange an initial telephone or video consultation, please Talk to Tollers on 01604 258 502 or e-mail emma.wesley@tollers.co.uk.

Our specialist Elderly and Vulnerable Client Unit (EVCU) team have a proven track record when it comes to recovering assets lost to financial abuse for our vulnerable and incapacitated clients.

The EVCU team undertakes forensic accounting to identify mismanaged and misappropriated funds and works closely with the dispute resolution department to recover assets where possible. We also work with the Police and Social Services to safeguard our clients and their assets and to bring perpetrators of financial abuse to justice.

Sadly, in many cases of financial abuse of a vulnerable person, the perpetrator of the abuse is more often than not a close relative of the victim. This can make criminal prosecution difficult to pursue. When it comes to restoring the estate itself, it is quite often the case that the victim’s assets have been considerably depleted, often to extinction, before our involvement and that the perpetrator has completely dissipated the assets, making our chances of recovery lesser still.

Our latest success story however involves some form of justice for an elderly gentleman, D.

D’s Story

A Deputy Order was granted in our favour and we met with social services to collect documents and share the background of the matter so far. We obtained historic bank statements dating back several years in order to check for financial abuse. This is standard practice for our experienced team, but we had also received an indication from social services that some abuse may have occurred.

From the history of statements, we could see a clear pattern in use of D’s card, such as where D liked to shop, how often and his method of payment. Familiar activity could be seen for D over a period of months and years. It was therefore noticeable when a change in use had occurred on the account several years prior to our involvement.

Overnight, D’s activity changed from small, weekly grocery shops at a regular local convenience store, to daily ATM withdrawals of the maximum amount, online transactions and gaming and betting stores. D’s account balance was drained rapidly and transfers then started to be made via ATM to top up the account from his savings. It was immediately apparent that there had been some fraudulent activity on the account, both before and after D’s admission to care.

We undertook detailed forensic accounting, reviewing all statements and itemising suspicious transactions and changes in use. We cross referenced dates with medical evidence, capacity assessments and D’s admission into care and quickly built up a picture of the financial abuse which had occurred.

We were able to establish that D’s son had taken up occupation in D’s London property as D started to have memory problems. D’s son proceeded to make use of his father’s bank card thereafter and after D entered care, he continued to do so. D’s son also allowed several other people to occupy his father’s property and allowed it to fall into disrepair with damage as it was seemingly used as a drug den. This continued for several years prior to our involvement.

Our EVCU team worked closely with our dispute resolution department in order to achieve a successful repossession and eviction of the occupants of the property and it was later sold.

In relation to the cash assets lost however, given the lack of residence and assets of the son and in light of the drug and gambling habits evident from the misuse of our client’s account, recovery of assets from the son would not be a viable option.

Banks Beware Fraud and Financial Abuse of Older People

In this case we had no alternative but to pursue the bank itself, due to the volume of evidence of fraudulent activity and the failing of D’s bank to provide adequate checks and safeguards on his account to protect him from fraud.

We started with a letter of complaint to the bank to highlight the fraud and the issues which were apparent from the statements. The bank refused to investigate the matter and claimed that the complaint was out of time. This was because our client fell ill and lost capacity to investigate and complain himself and was left unrepresented for several years before a Deputy was appointed. This was clear discrimination and unfairly prejudiced D’s already vulnerable position.

We therefore moved matters onto the Financial Ombudsman Service, which investigated our complaint against the bank further. The Ombudsman found the evidence to be overwhelming and upheld our complaint. The bank was asked to award our client almost £70,000 to account for funds lost due to fraud and to go some way to restoring his estate. Inadequate reviews of the account and its activity proved a very costly exercise for the bank in this instance.

Tonina Ashby, Head of the EVCU at Tollers commented “This outcome, whilst just and right for D, does raise several questions, such as what level of protection should banks be offering to people? How should this be applied and to whose accounts? Where do we draw the line?”

“In this case, there was a very obvious change in use of the account from one day to the next and tens of thousands of pounds were removed in a matter of weeks. It would be difficult for anyone, particularly a large high street bank such as this, to establish that this was not a clear and obvious abuse of the account by a third party. This case is not however unique in its facts, in the experience of our EVCU team.”

“This decision seems to prove that banks do have a duty to go some way to protect people from financial abuse and fraud and that they should consider having greater supervision of the accounts they hold. With an ever-growing elderly population and a prevalence of conditions such as dementia, it seems to me that banks should now be sitting up and taking responsibility to educate themselves as the gatekeepers to our assets, in order to protect those in need and to prevent their own liability.”

The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 came into force on 31st July 2019. This long-awaited law provides families with the ability to gain access to and control over the property and financial affairs of those who are missing, have been taken hostage or kidnapped and those who are imprisoned abroad.

According to the Charity “Missing People”, someone is reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK. Whilst the majority of these people will return home, for some this is the beginning of many weeks, months and years of unrest, unknowing and financial turmoil.

Guidance for Families of Missing People

Also known as “Claudia’s Law”, the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 provides a new category of legal representative to address the financial burden often left behind when a person goes missing. Prior to this Act, there was no recourse for families left in such a situation until they could satisfy the Presumption of Death Act 2013, which required that a person be missing for at least 7 years.

Under the new Act, an appointed Guardian will now have the power to manage and safeguard the financial affairs of the missing person, such as cancelling direct debits, settling bills and dealing with property for an initial period of 4 years. This will help to alleviate the financial burden experienced when a person goes missing.

To become a Guardian, an application must be made to the High Court and Tollers’ specialist Elderly and Vulnerable Client Unit (EVCU) is proud to be able to support families through the application process to become a Guardian.

Tollers are also pleased to confirm that Martin Timothy Hill, Court of Protection approved Panel Deputy has now been added to the Office of the Public Guardian’s list of approved Panel Guardians for Missing Persons. As a Panel Guardian, Martin will be able to manage the property and financial affairs on behalf of those who do not have an alternative representative to act in this capacity for them.

As an experienced Panel Deputy, Martin Hill has spent many years safeguarding the financial affairs or those who lack capacity and Tollers’ specialist team in the EVCU support him in this role.

If you have had the misfortune of experiencing the loss of a family member in this way and for information and support in making an application, please contact our EVCU team.

The Ministry of Justice has announced a refund scheme for those who were charged more than necessary for some deputyship fees charged between 1st April 2008 and 31st March 2015.

The overpayments occurred as the OPG had difficulty predicting costs as the amount of deputyship applications rose much faster than they had expected and the fees charged did not match how much it cost the OPG to supervise deputies.

For those already appointed as a Deputy for existing clients, there is no need to apply for the refund as the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) will be in touch to arrange any refunds due. The scheme does not apply to fees paid to OPG Scotland, the Office of Care and Protection in Northern Ireland or the Court of Protection.

It is necessary to apply for the refund in the following circumstances:

How much you receive will depend on how much was paid and at what rate, how long you paid for and if there were any unpaid fees.  Any refund received will also get 0.5% interest.

Refund of Deputyship Fees

The refunds can be applied for by completing the form at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/claim-a-deputyship-fee-refund or by telephone.

The Refunds Helpline details are:

Telephone: 0300 456 0300 (choose option 6)

Textphone: 0115 934 2778

The helpline is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am to 5pm and Wednesday 10am to 5pm

The process can take up to 12 weeks for the refund to be received.

The deadline for refund claims is 4th October 2022.

Are You Due A Refund From The Office Of The Public Guardian?

If you registered a Lasting Power of Attorney between 2013 and 2017 then the answer may well be yes.

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) announced some time ago that it had calculated that those who had registered a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) between 2013 and 2017 and paid registration fee had been overcharges. This was on the basis that the fees charged at that time were not reflective of the cost of registering the documents. Refunds of up to £54 (plus any accrued interest) are now being issued.

Deadline Date

So far, of the 1.8 million people eligible for the refund, only 200,000 have actually claimed it. The remaining 1.6 million people will need to apply for their refund by 1st February 2021. To apply for a refund visit http://gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund or call the OPG’s contact centre on 0300 456 0300 and select option 6 to be put through to the refunds team. The process is very simple and is designed for people to be able to do to make the application themselves.

Lasting Power Of Attorney

An LPA is a document that sets out who you wish to make decisions on your behalf should you become unable to make them, this could be through illness, and equally through injury. Where no LPA is in place and someone becomes unable to make decisions on their own behalf, their family will likely need to apply for a Deputyship Order, a lengthy and expensive process. Even once the Deputyship Order is in place there are ongoing costs and supervision which do not apply in situations where an LPA is in place.

Even with the numbers mentioned above Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) estimate that only 7% of the UK population have an LPA. Given the fact that most people are now living longer and illnesses such as dementia are becoming more prevalent many people are setting their families up for a very stressful and complicated future.

Solicitors For The Elderly

SFE is and independent, national organisation of over 1,600 lawyers, who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers. All members must have at least 3 years’ experience in this area of the law and have completed the Older Client Care in Practice Award. At Tollers, a number of our staff are members of SFE.

If you would like to further information regarding LPAs please contact one of our offices.

With dementia having overtaken heart disease as the nation’s leading cause of death, it is more important than ever that we all take the necessary steps to plan for our future.

A new report from Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) and the independent think tank, Centre for Future Studies, has revealed a looming crisis in the UK with people leaving far too many decisions to chance. This is due to the ever increasing number of people living with dementia combined with the failure to plan ahead for mental incapacity. The full study can be found here.

75% of people in South East England admitted that they were worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves. However, 80% haven’t discussed their wishes on end of life care and treatment.

A health and welfare LPA enables someone to choose who they would want to make decisions about their care and treatment if and when they become unable to make them for themselves. Tollers recommend that all their clients make both a property and financial affairs LPA, and a health and welfare LPA, as none of us know what the future will entail. Most people want someone who they trust and who knows them well to be able to make these decisions, but interestingly the report showed that 68% of people in the South East incorrectly believed that if they became unable to communicate their own wishes, their next of kin could automatically do so on their behalf and specify what was to happen to them.

In response to the study a coalition of organisations are joining together to encourage people to tackle the taboo of talking about later life planning, and to get their plans in place so that decisions about their health and welfare are not left to chance. The campaign is being led by SFE (the specialist organisation that connects older and vulnerable clients with legal experts in older client law) and it calls on people to act now and talk to their loved ones and remove the stigma that currently seems to surround such discussions.

Lakshmi Turner, Chief Executive of SFE, said:

“Most of us do not like thinking about, let alone talking about, death, disability or disease, despite the fact that it touches all our lives – but it is essential that we do so. Whilst it’s great that more and more of us are putting wills in place and establishing plans for finances and assets, far too few of us are planning ahead for our health and care needs and wishes, leaving this to chance.

It’s time to set the record straight. Planning ahead by talking to family or friends shouldn’t be seen as doom and gloom, it’s about having a positive conversation about welfare, empowering your loved ones and making the decision-making process easier for everyone.”

Tollers have a number of experts who can assist with the preparation of lasting powers of attorney, and who can help ensure that your wishes are carried out even in the event of your incapacity.

Each year, Tollers Solicitors host a full day Conference aimed at professionals who work with the elderly and vulnerable. Tollers are delighted to announce that this year it is to be held at the Kettering Park Hotel in Kettering on Wednesday 7th March 2018.  The audience is often made up of Social Workers, Charities, Health Professionals, Financial Advisors and others.  Its purpose is to provide expert information and updates in what is an ever-changing area of practice.

This year’s focus is “Contracts, Scams and the Digital Risk to Older Clients” and will mark Tollers’ fourth annual Elderly and Vulnerable Client Conference.

The annual conference features a number of guest speakers on a variety of topics, as well as speakers from within the firm itself and this year is no different. The 2018 conference will cover: care contracts in the home and in a care setting, with a talk from Barrister Lindsay Johnson, a talk on the protection of older people from scams by Nick Johns of Age UK and a very interesting demonstration from cyber-security firm Intaforensics around online risks.

Tollers have their own specialist Elderly and Vulnerable Client Unit (EVCU), which was set up initially by former Head of the team, Karon Walton, to give expert advice around Court of Protection matters and Lasting Powers of Attorney, as well as Local Authority and NHS assessments with regard to the funding of care. With this specialist team, Tollers have set themselves apart from other law firms to lead the way in what is a rapidly developing and niche area of law.

The EVCU team is made up of several legal professionals together with Panel Deputy, Martin Hill and Professional Deputy, Barry Rogers. The management of the EVCU has recently been taken over by Solicitor Tonina Ashby, following Karon’s move to become the new Chief Legal Officer for national organisation, Solicitors for the Elderly Ltd (SFE).  Karon said “I am delighted that Tonina has taken up the role to head up the team and will continue the important job of providing comprehensive legal advice for older people and their families when they are faced with the complexities of this area of law. I am also pleased to continue my close association with Tollers as a Consultant to the firm.”

Tonina has worked in law for the past 9 years and joined Tollers in December 2013. Tonina successfully developed Tollers’ Trust and Estates work in the Milton Keynes area, and earned her reputation as “one to watch”.  So it was no surprise that she has succeeded Karon as Head of the EVCU Team, where she will be based at the Northampton office.  Tonina said, “I am excited to take up this opportunity and to develop the unit further and whilst I will be based in the Northampton Office, I will be covering all areas throughout Northamptonshire, Rutland, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.”

Tonina and the EVCU team can assist with all applications to the Court of Protection including Deputyship applications, Trustee applications, Statutory Wills and Gifting. They also deal with queries about care funding and challenges to Local Authority funding and the management of client financial affairs under Deputyship Orders or Lasting Powers of Attorney.

Tollers ’conference will be held on Wednesday 7th March 2018 at the Kettering Park Hotel, Kettering Parkway, Kettering NN15 6XT.  The conference runs from 9.30 until 4pm with registration starting at 8.30am and the cost of the ticket includes lunch and refreshments.

To book a place at this insightful and interesting conference Talk to Tollers Elderly and Vulnerable Client Unit on 01604 258558 or email Tollers Marketing Manager, Karen Nicholson on karen.nicholson@tollers.co.uk

TOLLERS PROVIDE EXCEPTIONAL PEOPLE, EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE, EXCEPTIONAL DELIVERY

Veronica Male, a Chartered Legal Executive at Tollers says “Most people in good health do not think about arranging a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney.  If you do not have one in place, it can be very difficult for the people you trust to ensure that you get the treatment and care you would have chosen for yourself, if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.”

What is a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney?

It is a legal document that must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, that allows your chosen attorney(s) the authority to make decisions about your health and welfare when you are not able to do so.

If you do not have a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney decisions about your care and treatment will be made by doctors and social workers in your best interests, after consulting with your family.  The person you trust would not be the decision maker and this could mean you may end up receiving care in a way that you would not have chosen for yourself.

Who can be your attorney?

Anyone over the age of 18 years and has the mental capacity to act as an attorney can be appointed by you.

The attorney should be someone you trust to act in accordance with your wishes and who will put your best interests first.

What is the process of arranging a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney?

You decide and choose who you want to be your attorney, you can appoint one person or several people.  Choosing multiple attorneys can be useful, as if one of your attorneys is unable to act, the other attorneys can still act under the power you have granted them.

The attorneys provide their details and sign the Health and Welfare Power of Attorney to confirm that they are happy to act as your attorneys.

A person known as a “certificate provider” will discuss the power of attorney with you in private and then confirm that you understand the power you are giving to your attorneys.  If you have a medical condition, that might affect your understanding of the attorneyship then a medical practitioner could be asked to be the “certificate provider” and will charge you for this service.

You will need to sign the document and then decide whether to register the Health and Welfare Power of Attorney now or keep it to register at a later date.  The registration process can take between 12-14 weeks.  Due to the length of the waiting time for registration, our advice is to register it straight away as your Attorney(s) may need to make a decision urgently.

When you are thinking about making a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney, you can decide whether your attorney has the right to make decisions about life sustaining treatment and you can indicate this in the document by completing Section A of the document.  You can also use the instructions and preference boxes to give more detail.

The important thing to remember is that the Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare can only be used when you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.

So what decisions can your attorney make?

Your attorney make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment, where you live and what care you receive.

If you have granted the attorney(s) the authority in the document, to make life sustaining treatment decisions they will put those representations forward to your medical team. As an additional safeguard we recommend that a copy of your Health and Welfare Power of Attorney be lodged with your General Practitioner.

Veronica Male, goes on to say “Although the document may look simple, it is very important that you get independent legal advice to ensure you are appointing the right people to act as your attorneys and you understand the powers you are granting them.”

If you would like to know more about making a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney, Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and one of our specialist lawyers will be happy to help and advise.

The Ministry of Justice has announced a refund scheme for donors or their attorneys who registered powers of attorney for England and Wales between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2017.

The scheme offers a partial refund for each power of attorney registered and applies to both Lasting Powers of Attorney and Enduring Powers of Attorney. Even if you registered several powers of attorney you only need to make one claim.

The partial refunds are detailed in this chart from the Government website

When you paid the fee

Refund for each power of attorney

April to September 2013 £54
October 2013 to March 2014 £34
April 2014 to March 2015 £37
April 2015 to March 2016 £38
April 2016 to March 2017 £45

The refund scheme has been set up so only the Donor, who is the person who granted the power of attorney, or Attorneys, the people appointed by the donor to act for them, can claim the refund unless the Donor has died or where the Court has appointed a Deputy. A Deputy can be appointed by the Court if the Attorneys have been removed or have died.

The refunds can be applied for online  https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund or by telephone if the donor has passed away, the donor does not have a UK bank account or if the Court has appointed a Deputy to act for the Donor.  The telephone service can also be used by people who would find using a computer difficult.

The Refunds helpline contact details are

Email: poarefunds@justice.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: 0300 456 0300 (choose option 6)
Textphone: 0115 934 2778

The helpline is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9am to 5pm and Wednesday 10am to 5pm.

The Ministry of Justice advised the process could take up to 12 weeks for a refund to be processed.

On Thursday 15th June 2017 it is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Started by the UN in 2012, this global event looks to raise awareness of the abuse the elders in our society are subjected to and looks to raise awareness to prevent and expose the dangers.

Elder abuse can be financial, physical, sexual, emotional or is caused by neglect. The Action on Elder Abuse website claims Elder Abuse affects about 500,000 older people across the UK each year! The one thing each form of Elder Abuse has in common is that only around 6% of cases are reported.

This year’s theme as declared by the UN “Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue.”

Financial Abuse in the UK takes many forms: out-right theft, fraud, misuse of property and Power of Attorney as well as denying access to funds. The risk factors of falling victim of financial abuse include: social isolation, cognitive impairment or other dependencies on the abuser. This year’s theme hopes to highlight preventing financial exploitation.

Karon Walton, Head of Tollers Elderly and Vulnerable Client Unit says: “It is so important if you or a loved one is subject to abuse that action is taken for it to stop immediately , this can be done in many ways but getting advice and help from a specialist will help you make an informed decision.”

Age UK have summed up the epitome of what World Elder Abuse Awareness Day hopes to achieve:  ‘Sometimes all we need is a helping hand – be there for those who need support & report Elder Abuse’

Veronica Male, a specialist in Care Home Abuse and Neglect adds: “We support World Elder Abuse Awareness Day as it is so important for people to understand that this abuse occurs and that there are steps they can take to report and stop it”

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