December 6, 2022

Selecting your attorney for property is not a decision to be taken lightly. An attorney for property is a fiduciary, holds a position of trust, and can do anything with your money and property that you could do yourself , except make a Will. Needless to say, your attorney should be trustworthy, financially responsible, and able to manage your assets for your benefit, and not for their own.

Unfortunately, Welsh actress Margaret Wright (known professionally as Meg Wynn Owen), did not make a prudent choice in appointing her longtime friend and costumer designer, Brian Malam, as her attorney for property. Ms. Wright appeared in such films and TV shows as Love Actually, Pride and Prejudice, Doctor Who, and Upstairs, Downstairs.

In 2014, facing dementia and declining mental capacity, Ms. Wright appointed Mr. Malam as her attorney for property. In 2015, Ms. Wright was admitted into a care home. Although Mr. Malam visited her at first, his visits decreased in frequency and then stopped altogether. At the same time, Mr. Malam began accessing Ms. Wright’s savings through bank transfers to his own account, direct spending, and cash withdrawals.

Among Mr. Malam’s duties was to deposit money into a special account which staff at the care home could use to buy essentials for Ms. Wright, but he failed to do so.  As a result, staff had insufficient funds to purchase clothing for Ms. Wright, and so they dressed her in the clothes of deceased residents. As there was no money left to pay a hairdresser, they cut Ms. Wright’s hair themselves. Staff became so concerned, they took Ms. Wright to the bank to review her accounts, and she became distressed to discover that her accounts had been depleted.

In 2020, the staff reported the matter to the Public Guardian, who, after investigating, involved the police. Mr. Malam was charged and ultimately pleaded guilty to fraud, having misappropriated £65,000 of Ms. Wright’s assets over a four year period. He was sentenced to 32 months in prison.

Given the responsibly involved, choose your attorney wisely. If in doubt about the suitability of family members or friends, consider appointing a professional trustee, such as a trust company, to manage your affairs when you are no longer able to do so.