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Scratch the surface

Attorneys should expect the unexpected when discovering a client's hidden valuables: one person's treasure is another's big problem, says Sofia Tayton

13 December 2013

Many years ago, a colleague was appointed as attorney for a long-standing client, who was diagnosed with dementia in early 2013 and moved into a care home. The situation has created some everyday and extraordinary challenges for the firm.

First, there was the registration of the client's enduring power of attorney (EPA), which required two medical practitioners to each provide a certificate confirming that the donor had lost capacity. Although this is not an unusual restriction, it delayed progress. Our client had not been dealing with his financial matters at all well for months - cue a number of red reminder letters from utility companies and threats of forced entry to the property.

But the utility companies wouldn't talk to my colleague, me or anyone from the firm in any detail about the accounts because of "data protection". (Strangely, the same companies would, however, have accepted payments from us if we had cash available.)

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