Lawyer accused of pressuring dementia-stricken mum into granting him power of attorney

The unnamed lawyer also reportedly took $190,000 from his mother's estate after she died

Lawyer accused of pressuring dementia-stricken mum into granting him power of attorney

A lawyer has been accused of pressuring his dementia-stricken mother into granting him power of attorney and then taking $190,000 from her estate after she died, reported the NZ Herald.

The lawyer, whose name is under interim suppression, reportedly transferred the money just two days after his mother’s passing in 2018. On the Law Society’s behalf, the Standards Committee prosecuted the lawyer on charges of misconduct.

In addition to the money transfers from his mother’s estate, the allegations also covered the lawyer transferring $200,000 from a family trust, of which he was a trustee, in order to finance his business. The business was allegedly in danger of going into receivership.

The lawyer appeared before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal this week. His sister testified she lost power of attorney to her brother in 2013, but their mother was not given a medical assessment to check whether she could make the decision to implement such a change. In 2015, the mother was diagnosed with dementia and found to be incompetent.

Standards Committee lawyer Paul Collins said to the tribunal in a statement published by the Herald that “acute financial pressure” drove the lawyer’s actions, “contrary to his known duties as a trustee”.

On the first day of the three-day proceedings, the lawyer confessed to two misconduct charges, confirming that he had initiated the transfers of the money. However, he argued that he had been rushing to settle the estate without communicating clearly with the other family members.

He also told the tribunal that he had been in grief and lacked clarity in his thinking. He claimed that his sister took documents that would have cleared up the transactions from their mother’s home – a claim denied by his sister.

The other three charges were dismissed.

The lawyer is set to attend a penalty hearing before the tribunal.

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