Jean — a conflict transaction victim

Jean used an Enduring Power of Attorney to appoint her adopted son, Kevin, and his wife as her attorneys for financial, personal and health matters. Sometime later Jean was diagnosed with dementia and showed signs of impaired decision-making capacity. These included short and long-term memory issues, and confusion about her assets, which bills had been paid and whether she had taken money out of the bank for her weekly expenses.

While Jean had previously been quite frugal, she began discussing the need to buy things for her family so they would continue to care for her. Her funds were subsequently used to purchase a home and motor vehicle for Kevin and his wife, amounting to about $500,000.

We investigated concerns of financial abuse by Kevin and his wife and found several breaches of the Powers of Attorney Act 1998.

In justifying that Jean had chosen to give them $500,000, Kevin and his wife produced a handwritten note signed by Jean around the time the funds were transferred to their account. It was revealed that the body of the letter had been written by Kevin. In addition, Jean had not received independent legal advice and her capacity to make financial decisions had not been checked before this transaction took place. Kevin and his wife were found to have breached several sections of the Powers of Attorney Act 1998; and to have made financial transactions that demonstrated a conflict of interest or ‘conflict transactions’.The Public Guardian suspended their power for financial matters, with the Public Trustee appointed as administrator for financial matters in the interim. The Public Guardian then applied to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) for the appointment of a long-term administrator for Jean to ensure her finances were managed appropriately.