12 April 2019 by

Fraudster son jailed and ordered to reimburse his late mother’s stolen estate

Lasting Powers of Attorney are important tools in ensuring that a person’s property and finances are dealt with in accordance with their wishes if they lose capacity to manage their own affairs. Unfortunately, they can also be used to assist financial abuse of the elderly.

A recent case highlighted the importance of taking steps to ensure the elderly do not become isolated as this can lead them to become overly reliant on one person (who could be or become their abuser). Talking with the elderly person and educating them on risk, solicitations and scams could help to avoid future abuse (or indeed, help you spot existing abuse).

The case concerned a greedy son who was found guilty of financially abusing his mother while acting for her as attorney pursuant to a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs (‘LPA’). He has been ordered to reimburse her estate in the sum of £566,365.

For 4 years, Richard Willis spent his elderly mother’s (Audrey Willis’s) savings while she was seriously ill in a care home. He was jailed for 6 years in 2015 after a jury found him guilty of fraud. He has now been released on licence from prison but a judge has ordered him to pay back £566,365 within 3 months, failing which he will face a further 40 months in prison.

Willis managed to gain power of attorney for Audrey after his father died in 2007 and he discovered that he would not be entitled to a large part of her fortune. He transferred £185,000 from her account in May 2010 and £190,000 the following month. He later claimed that the bank transfers were gifts from Audrey. In 2011, he sold Audrey’s retirement flat in Northampton for £199,000 and moved her into a full time care home. Of the proceeds of sale, he used only £29,000 towards his mother’s care. He spent the rest on himself, in clear breach of his duty as attorney.

Audrey died in 2013 with only two sets of clothes to her name. In total, Willis stole around £713,000, which he spent on antiques, shotguns (£30,000), sports cars, a £285,000 cottage in Buckinghamshire, as well as luxury food and wines, all for his own benefit. His flagrant breach of trust meant that Audrey was left languishing in a care home.

If you suspect financial abuse of an elderly person, make sure that you report it as soon as possible. Depending on the nature of the abuse, you could report it to the police, the elderly person’s GP or Adult Social Services at the local council. If you are not sure about what to do, you can call helplines such as Action on Elder Abuse (0808 808 8141) and Age UK (0800 678 1174). You might also need to instruct a solicitor to advise and assist in recovering the elderly person’s assets from the abuser.

You can also contact one of our solicitors in the Contentious Trusts and Probate team here.

 

 

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