Emily Wardrope, Private Client Partner looks at the Government’s announced
reforms to the process of setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney.
The Government recently announced that, for the first time, people will be able to make a Lasting Power of Attorney online as well as via a paper application.
The Government believe that the management of people’s affairs will be made simpler as a result, but is this the case or is the Government opening the floodgates to an increase in abuse?
There are two types of LPA; a Health and Welfare LPA and a Financial Decisions LPA. Both enable you to choose who can make decisions on your behalf in relation to your health and welfare and financial decisions if there comes a time when you cannot. The person you choose to make decisions is known as your ‘attorney’.
Although we would love to believe we will be lucid and capable for
the rest of our lives, this is not always a guarantee. By making LPAs you are providing for something that may or may not happen in the future. In some
ways, I like to think of them as a form of insurance policy – you may not need the cover but you are at least prepared and protected if you do.
The Government argues that the digital application system will reduce errors as it will apparently flag up mistakes during the application process which I agree will be helpful, if it works.
Digitisation will certainly make it easier when it comes to the signing of LPAs, particularly when appointed Attorneys live further afield, because there will be no need to sign forms in person.
Also, a clear advantage of the digital system is the reduction in paper.
If LPAs can be witnessed remotely, I’d argue vulnerable people in particular are more at risk as it can be easier for them to be coerced into creating LPAs.
The knock on effect is an increase in litigation whereby the validity of LPAs is being challenged. It is also yet to be confirmed how the certificate provider (who acts as a safeguard to confirm a donor understands the nature of the
LPA, is of sound mental capacity and has not been coerced into creating an LPA) will be affected by digital LPAs.
A big concern of mine is how the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) will cope.
Probate practitioners have seen a huge increase in how long it is taking for probate applications to be approved since the majority became digitalised. Previously, a straightforward Grant application would take around seven to ten
days. I am lucky to get a Grant back within eight weeks and some have taken six months!
If you are considering setting up a LPA we strongly advocate a Solicitor is instructed in the process. A Solicitor will help you to understand the different types of LPA, aid you in your decision to choose attorneys you truly trust, advise you on possible safeguarding within your LPAs to ensure that your wishes are clearly expressed and ensure your LPA cannot be challenged at a