Difficult choices

May 3, 2016

When someone you know and love is struggling to make decisions about their finances, property or health, how can you best help them? Cliff Veitch, partner at David Gray Solicitors, addresses some common scenarios faced by families caring for elderly and mentally ill relatives

According to the 2011 Census, there are 6.5 million carers in the UK and the majority of them are of working age. With 40 per cent of people caring for parents or parents-in-law, it can be very difficult to know how best to manage the broad range of situations that arise. The law governing those with decision-making powers over someone else’s affairs is notoriously difficult, and with an increasing aged population, the law is constantly evolving.

At David Gray Solicitors, our team are members of Solicitors for the Elderly, and experts in this area. Here are just a few examples of issues that have and can arise:


My dad has dementia and lives in a care home. He says he wants to leave and has tried to abscond. It’s in his best interests to remain there – what can I do?

Everybody has a basic human right to freedom, but when someone lacks the mental ability to look after themselves, the Mental Capacity Act gives the Local Authority a procedure to follow to deprive your dad of his liberty and make the choice about where it is in his best interests to live. There is a procedure for your dad or his family to challenge that decision through the Court of Protection. The Court of Protection will look at the options available for your dad’s care and take into account the views of the professionals involved and the family, as well as your dad himself. The court can also ask an independent expert to look at the different options.


I am an only child whose parents are in their 90s but are frail and unable to manage their property very well. I work abroad for long periods and want to appoint someone I can trust to help them when they need it – what can I do?

I would discuss this with your parents. Is there someone they can trust to help them handle their money? This could be a friend, family member or a solicitor. Your parents can each sign a Lasting Power of Attorney appointing one or more attorneys to act either together or with power to act separately. A Lasting Power of Attorney must be registered before it can be used and registration takes around two months. It is for your parents to consider the options and decide who they appoint to help them manage their money. A good solicitor can advise them as to the options and help them each prepare a Lasting Power of Attorney.


My mum lives on her own and is struggling to manage her finances. She’s asked me to help her out but my brother (who has been estranged from the family for some years) says he wants to be involved – what can I do?

Speak to your mum. If she has capacity, it is ultimately her decision. She can decide to appoint you as an attorney to help her manage her finances. She might also want to involve your brother by appointing him as joint attorney or as a reserve or replacement attorney. Ultimately, it is your mum’s choice. If your mum doesn’t have capacity, then you can make an application to the Court of Protection to be appointed.

For legal advice on caring for the elderly or mentally ill, please contact me or speak to another member of our friendly and knowledgeable team on 0191 243 8167.




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