UK: Jimmy Hill Dementia Case Highlights The Need To Choose Your Attorneys Carefully

Last Updated: 15 October 2013
Article by Fay Copeland

It was revealed in the press over the weekend of 28 and 29 September that Jimmy Hill, the former footballer and television presenter, is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and has been since 2008. Two of his children decided to make news of his condition public in an effort to raise awareness at the problems that have arisen in the family due to Jimmy Hill's power of attorney. The case highlights the need to make a power of attorney and to choose your attorneys carefully.

Jimmy Hill made an Enduring Power of Attorney ("EPA") in 2005 before he succumbed to dementia, naming his wife and his solicitor as his attorneys. An EPA is a form of power of attorney that endures after the donor loses mental capacity, at which time the attorneys become responsible for managing the donor's property and affairs.

Jimmy Hill's condition became such that he was deemed to have lost mental capacity in 2008, and the EPA was registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, meaning that his wife and the solicitor could take over management of his affairs. Jimmy has had a colourful private life, by his own admission, and has been married three times. He has five children from both of his first marriages, meaning that there are different sides of the family and different interests at stake. The children did not find out that they were not named as attorneys until the EPA was registered and their lack of involvement caused friction in the family.

A donor cannot alter the identity of his attorneys after he loses mental capacity, and the Court will not interfere in the appointments unless there is any wrongdoing on the part of the attorneys or they decline to take up their roles. So as matters stand in the Jimmy Hill case, his choice of attorneys is binding and the children have no say in the running of his affairs, and in particular the management of his finances. His wife and solicitor have sole control.

The situation would not cause problems if relations were entirely harmonious and the attorneys were happy to consult with the entire family and agree on the course of action to take, but they are under no obligation to do this, and in extended families where interests are diverse, it will be impossible in any event.

Two of Jimmy Hill's children made his case public to highlight the problems that can arise where a person with an extended family makes a power of attorney that does not take into consideration all family members. Better, they say, that the person in question sits down with the whole family before mental capacity becomes an issue and discuss with them how their affairs are to be looked after at the relevant time, and who is going to do this.

The children's case for family involvement is a sensible one, provided the donor is willing to consult everyone; however, he cannot be forced to do so, and if he wants to make a choice on his own, this will stand and the family must do their best to get on with the situation. The case does however emphasise the importance of thinking very carefully about the identity of your attorneys and making sure you have made the best choice possible for your interests and ideally to pre-empt any problems by appointing a balance of family members. In extended families where it is difficult to do this, consideration could be given to appointing professional attorneys if appropriate, so as to be sure of impartiality.

The other key message from this case is the importance of making a power of attorney. It was good planning by Jimmy Hill to make an EPA before his condition worsened, as if he had not done so, the Court would have needed to appoint deputies to look after his affairs and Jimmy Hill would have had no say in who was appointed. The process of appointing deputies can also be lengthy and expensive. EPAs were replaced from 1 October 2007 by Lasting Powers of Attorney ("LPAs") but LPAs have the same effect (although the procedure for making and registering them is different). Please see our leaflet " Why make an LPA?" for further details.

It remains to be seen what happens in the Hill family, but the principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 ensure that the attorneys act in the best interests of Jimmy Hill at all times, and one would hope this would unite the family.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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