The public row over the care of former football commentator Jimmy Hill highlights that while a power of attorney is designed to remove future issues and headaches it does not necessarily take away the heartache, especially in an era of second marriages and extended families.
The face of Match of the Day for 25 years, Mr Hill is now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and living in a care home. This only became public knowledge when Jamie, 46, and Joanna, 50, his two children from his second marriage, decided to highlight the difficulties that may arise when a parent with a large extended family becomes too poorly to make decisions for himself.
In 2005, while still in good health, Jimmy Hill granted power of attorney to Bryony, his third wife, and to his solicitor. This basically permitted the handling of all Mr Hill’s affairs to be taken over by them in the event of his becoming mentally incapacitated. The son is aggrieved that neither he nor his siblings were consulted about joint power of attorney.
While there may be valid reasons why a parent may not wish to grant a power of attorney in favour of their children, it would do no harm, wherever possible, to discuss the matter as a family beforehand. Alternatively, the reasoning for the appointment of certain individuals as attorneys could be given in a letter to be held with the solicitor, only to be disclosed if the power of attorney is required. Obviously, appointing all children as attorneys in a large or extended family would not be practical. As may be expected, the appointment of either a spouse or civil partner as an attorney is automatically revoked upon divorce or dissolution unless contrary to the provisions of the power of attorney.
Perhaps the biggest lesson to come out of the Jimmy Hill saga is that things could have been infinitely worse had a power of attorney – even one not to the satisfaction of all of his children – not been in place. Without it, relatives of a mentally incapacitated person have no option but to apply to the court for authority to administer financial and other affairs. The court application is lengthy and costly – more costly, many times over, than the outlay involved in setting up a power of attorney while hoping it will never be needed.
• Angela McMahon is a senior solicitor with Murray Beith Murray