power of attorney

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monad | 17:24 Sat 29th Mar 2008 | Civil
4 Answers
My father died on Thursday. He has a house in his name only. He remarried 30 years ago. his wife has managed to systematically arrange for my father to borrow money against the house to send to her family abroad. Her family has benefited well and don't need to work. They last borrowed �40,000.00 in December and this has now disappeared. My father has been ill for years and was blind for the last three years. His wife neglected him by making him sleep on the sofa whilst incontinent; they lived in squalor. My father saw nothing wrong in this and I could do nothing to stop this happening. He was admitted to hospital 3-4 weeks ago and last Saturday was the 1st time that he was lucid. He told me that he had given his wife power of attorney and that she had borrowed �350,000.00. She did try to borrow this money but was refused. She did not register her power of attorney and I know that all of her transactions since my father went into hospital were illegal. I was trying to apply for deputy power of attorney when he died. My intention was to put him in care and allow the equity in his house to for pay for this. He needed some dignity in the last days of his life. I am aware that there was a will but his wife tore it up. She is now liaising with a property developer. I believe that she wishes to keep my sister and I out of our inheritance. I believe that she will sell up and skip the country, try to avoid paying inheritance tax and any other debts not registered against the house. I have a few questions: 1. I need to put a caveat on the house and contact the land registry try to stop the house being sold without my consent. Can I do this myself? I do not think that I can afford a solicitor. 2. Now that my father is gone does she have a right to continue to use his bank accounts and/or sell the house? 3. Can I take legal action against her for attempting to remortgage the house whilst my father was dying? If so, how to I prove this?


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She won't be able to sell up without paying inheritance tax - if any is due. To sell the house she will need probate (and the will she has torn up) or Letters of Administration (and lie about the will). To get these the IHT must be paid. She is also either going to have to declare you as his children or lie about your existence.

Perhaps you should take matters into your own hands and apply for Letters of Administation yourself. It will at least alert the Probate Office to the fact there is a dispute that will need to be sorted out before they can process any application....

Unless they were joint accounts she has no right to carry on using them. She can only sell the house as executor or administrator, not in her own right.
1. I think you can put a restriction or unilateral declaration on at the land registry. Talk to their helpline about this. She will not be notified if she is not a joint owner, but a notification will go out in your father's name which she will presumably see. (The only doubt I have about this is that the procedure may be different from usual because your father has died.)

2. If you know the details of his bank accounts contact all the banks concerned and notify them that he has died - if possible, get copies of the death certificate to give them. Otherwise tell them there is a dispute, that he has died and you want to ensure his widow does not go on using the accounts. Make sure this information is properly recorded - either do it by recorded delivery post or get the name & details of the person you pass it to & insist on having a written confirmation. The power of attorney dies with him & she has no right to use it now.

3. I don't think you can do anything about the attempt to re-mortgage - it is fortunate it did not succeed.

4. If you know which solicitor prepared the will (assuming there was a solicitor involved) you could ask whether they have a copy. This could help if you need to take up a formal dispute about distribution of the estate. However, if there is not a will she is not entitled to the whole of the estate - look at the intestacy rules to see what she gets.
Sorry to hear that you have to deal with this following your Dad's death. This is a complex problem. My view would be:

Just because a will has been destroyed dosen't mean (strangely) that it no longer exists. It should have been registered and failing that try and check paper work to see which Solicitor he may have used to track it down.

1) I don't think you can do anything to prevent the sale of the house and she would only have authority to do so once it has been established that there is no will.
2) Again, the estate would have to be administered under the laws of intestacy (if there is no will). This is a legal process and you Dad will have an Executor appointed for him if the will can't be traced. She can only manage his affairs once the Executor has finished their work. I know that that the intestacy law in Scotland allows the house to be transfered to the wife and the children to claim a share on the 'moveable' estate i.e bank accounts etc. This does not apply to step children. You need to check this for where your Dad lived but will probably be similar.
3) She couldn't remortgage unless it was all under your Dad's name. Regardless, I don't think you should not waste your time on this one, litigation is very costly.

Good Luck!

Unfortunately, there is no system of registration in England and Wales for Wills other than a voluntary one (which is very little used). You cannot apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration until his widow is "cleared off" (ie someone with a greater right than you has renounced their right). I would suggest you lodge a caveat against her getting a Grant of Letters of Administration IMMEDIATELY. Then go about finding (through advertisements or writing to his solicitors) a copy of the original Will.

I disagree that this is not worth doing anything with, I consider that IF it is proved that he did revoke the Will, the wife stands to inherit substantially. If she has spent some of his money while purporting to act under the Power of Attorney (which only needed to be registered once he lost capacity), this could be taken into account in the intestacy, but to do so, you will need to prove that the "gifts" she made were as a result of undue influence.

What Themas has said is really important too. Let the banks/building societies etc know he has died. Whilst the PoA died with him, if the banks do not know of the death there is nothing to stop her continuing to act under it, albeit illegally. Contact them ASAP.

I think you need legal advice from a specialist firm (preferably a STEP or ACTAPS) member. And pronto.

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