Giving gifts on behalf of a person with dementia when you’re their attorney

There are specific rules about the kinds of gifts you can give, and what’s counted as a ‘gift’ can be surprising.

Question:

‘I hold financial Lasting power of attorney (LPA) for my aunt, who has dementia. I’d like to offer an empty property of hers rent-free to a cousin – is that allowed?’ 

Answer:

If someone’s appointed you as an attorney under a financial Lasting power of attorney (LPA), there are strict rules about making gifts on their behalf. 

Letting a relative stay somewhere without paying rent might not be something you think of as a ‘gift’, but it is one for the purposes of being an attorney. 

If the person is in Northern Ireland, they’d have an Enduring power of attorney rather than an LPA, but the rules about gifts are similar.

What counts as a gift? 

If you’re someone’s attorney and making decisions about their money, many things count as a gift – not only giving another person money or buying them something. 

Gifts can include donations to charity, paying another person’s school or university fees, or giving them an interest-free loan. 

Selling someone’s possessions at less than market value or, as in your question, letting their property out for free or at a cheap rate also count as gifts. 

When can I make a gift? 

You shouldn’t make any gifts on the person’s behalf if they have the mental capacity to make a decision about this themselves. 

If the person doesn’t have capacity to decide about making a gift, you may be able to do it if you think it would be in their best interests. You should still try to involve them as much as you can. 

What gifts are allowed? 

Unless the person added specific restrictions to their LPA, you can make gifts to their relatives or friends on their behalf on a ‘customary occasion’. This includes birthdays, weddings or civil partnership ceremonies, anniversaries or religious festivals. 

You could also make donations to charities that the person would give to themselves. However, the value of any gift must be reasonable, bearing in mind the person’s overall finances and their own needs. 

What about other gifts? 

If you want to give another kind of gift – for example, letting a cousin stay rent-free in the person’s property – then you’d need to get special approval. 

In Wales or England this would be from the Court of Protection, while in Northern Ireland it would be from the Office of Care and Protection. You’d need to show that what you propose is in the person’s best interests. 

Further advice

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