The Powers of Attorney Bill that enables Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) to be made completely online received Royal Assent at the end of September.
Designed to modernise the system for creating LPAs, the Bill received cross-party support in both the House of Commons and House of Lords when it was introduced by Stephen Metcalfe MP in December of last year.
However, the reforms have been met with a cautious reception by legal practitioners who have outstanding concerns about how the new rules will work in practice.
An LPA is a legally binding document that enables you to appoint one or more people to make decisions on your behalf should you lose the capacity to do so.
There are two types of LPA:
- Property and affairs LPAs cover decisions such as buying and selling property or managing bank or building society accounts or investments.
- Health and Welfare LPAs cover decisions about medical treatments and care arrangements, including where a person should live, who they contact, and their day-to-day care.
Under the existing system, LPAs can be made online, but need to be printed off and submitted to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) to be registered.
The forms can be complicated and, without specialist assistance from an experienced LPA solicitor, many people can make mistakes during the application process, including signing the forms in the wrong order, mixing pages, and including unlawful requests.
Errors can prove costly and are time consuming.
Consulting a solicitor ensures an LPA is properly set up and registered and that it is in the best interests of the donor. For advice on LPAs, please contact Larcomes on 023 9244 8100 or click here for more information.
The new Powers of Attorney Act hopes to make the application process more efficient by introducing a fully digital channel through which applications can be made.
It also intends to automate many checks and speed up the process by allowing mistakes to be fixed online, rather than waiting for hard copies of the documents to be sent back and forth between the applicant and the OPG.
Digitalising the system will benefit the OPG which has seen the existing system for making LPAs come under increased pressure. The number of registered LPAs has increased drastically in recent years to more than 6 million, but the process of making one retains many paper-based features that are over 30 years old.
Currently, the OPG receives an average of 5,700 paper LPAs every day and processes around 80,000 sheets of paper on a day-to-day basis.
However, the legal industry has raised concerns about the new reforms, including the complexity of government technology and the possible exclusion of those without internet access.
Law Society president Lubna Shuja said: “The IT system used to register for online services provided by the government is complicated and difficult to use, even for those who are digitally literate.
“We are also concerned about the lack of detail on the proposed ID verification system and whether those who are not digitally literate can access the digital system without significant support.”
Concerns have also been raised about the potential for fraud and suggestions that the elderly and vulnerable may be more susceptible to abuse during the online application process.
The new system is currently being developed by the OPG and more information will be published in the next few months.
Lasting Power of Attorney Solicitors
A Lasting Power of Attorney can be just as important as writing your Will and should be made regardless of your age.
However, this area of law is complex, and it is not unusual for mistakes to be made which can lead to costly disputes further down the line.
Seeking specialist legal advice is vital.
Larcomes’ experienced Lasting Power of Attorney Solicitors can provide the expertise and guidance surrounding all areas of LPA and the Mental Capacity Act.
Please note that this article is not intended as legal or professional advice. It is for general guidance only, and updates to the law may have changed since it was published.