Alice is in her 90s, blind and becoming deaf, with increasing dementia. She lives in a retirement home in the UK with some carer support. She sold her house to fund this, and has plenty of money.

Alice's children are Bob, Carol, Dorothy and Eve. For obscure reasons, Bob and Carol don't talk to Alice, Dorothy or Eve. Eve has sole power of attorney over Alice's financial and medical affairs, and is sole executor of Alice's will. When Alice dies, it is not inconceivable that Bob or Carol might allege that Eve mismanaged Alice's affairs and thus depleted Alice's estate, some of which is left to Bob and Carol.

Alice becomes very unwell because of an infection. In the short term, she needs intensive nursing to recover, including help with feeding and turning in bed. Because of her dementia and (it is hoped temporary) delirium, Alice will only allow Eve to help her. Eve makes multiple trips by car each day to Alice. Eve is self-employed with a low-paid job for multiple customers, and loses money (and possibly a regular customer) every time she has to visit Alice.

Bearing in mind that Eve's management of Alice's finances might be examined in court, in general, how does the law determine whether Eve's expenditure of Alice's money is reasonable?

In particular, is it possible to say what reasonable expenses Eve might claim from Alice?

  • Mileage travelling to visit Alice?
  • Lost income from the hours Eve is unable to work while tending Alice?
  • Lost goodwill for Eve's business as customers desert her?
  • Cost in Eve's time to consult a lawyer for advice on these matters?
  • Cost of consulting the lawyer?

If any of these expenses are reasonable, what documentation should Eve keep to support her argument in a possible future legal dispute?

Apart from a possible family dispute, are there any other limits (beyond the requirement of an attorney always to act in the interest of the grantor) that Eve should be aware of?

Apologies if this seems very specific and detailed, but it is a general area that is going to become more important in the UK as we become better at keeping old people alive, and more lay people have to act with power of attorney. I would like to understand how the law approaches these fundamentally difficult family problems.

  • 3
    If Eve is seriously anticipating a legal dispute, it would seem wise for her to consult a lawyer now, instead of relying on random Internet advice. Oct 21, 2019 at 13:27

1 Answer 1


Eve must act in Alice's best interests

Payment to Eve that is not clearly and unambiguously authorised by Alice while Eve is Alice's attorney is almost always inappropriate and possibly illegal. Reimbursement of expenses that are directly undertaken for Alice's benefit (e.g. paying her electricity or gas bill) are OK but anything that could be considered payment for services provided by Eve is not.

Unfortunately, Eve needs to decide if she will provide these services gratis, engage professional care1 paid for by Alice, or surrender her power of attorney and seek reimbursement from Alice's new legal representative2 - anything else is legally grey verging on black.

The current legal presumption is that the care of relatives is done for love and affection - not for profit. Ideally, Alice would have left clear instructions on how her money could be spent while she was still legally capable and this could have included a stipend for any relatives who cared for her, however, Eve has to deal with things as they are not as she would like them to be.

From you list, the only costs that are unambiguously OK for Alice to pay are the legal fees a lawyer would charge for consulting on this matter.

1Professional carer's will just have to deal with Alice's desire for only Eve to help her.

2Given that Alice is not legally capable of appointing a new attorney, this would be the UK Public Trustee


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