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DIY or Digital LPAs

DIY and Digital LPAs – Why Not?

| Published on November 21, 2016

Humphries Kirk raises concerns around the Government’s online ‘DIY’ tool for creating Lasting Powers of Attorney


Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are documents that allow a person to appoint another to manage their affairs (either property and financial or health and welfare) if they are unable to do so themselves.

An LPA should not be appointed lightly and full consideration should be given to the choice of Attorneys and their ability to make decisions for you.

The OPG Digital Strategy

The Office of the Public Guardian (the Executive Body reporting to the Ministry of Justice with responsibility to register Powers of Attorney) created a digital tool in 2013 with the aim of seeing more people create and register their own LPAs at minimal cost and without the need for legal advice.

The OPG intend that 30% of all applications to register LPAs shall be made in the digital format between April 2016 and March 2017. Applications to register LPAs have increased dramatically in the last three years and so it would appear that the OPG’s strategy is working.

Is this a positive thing? On the one hand, quite possibly, an LPA is an important document and the ramifications for not having an LPA can be complicated, time consuming, stressful and expensive.

Fraud, Duress and Undue Influence

We see cases where people have not considered the choice of their Attorneys properly which has resulted in fraud against them. We also see cases where LPAs have not been prepared correctly taking into account an individual’s own circumstances, which has resulted in an LPA becoming defective.

As it currently stands, a ‘wet’ signature is still required and this is one of the last remaining ways in which it can be assured that a person granting an LPA has consented to the appointment. The OPG has already reduced the role of the certificate provider and there are now plans to fully digitalise the service so that someone creating an LPA need not even sign the document.

It’s crucial to be advised correctly on the mechanics of an LPA, the choice of Attorney, the nature of the appointment, the types of guidance and instructions that can be included within the document and the duties of Attorneys as part of the LPA creation and registration process. We further believe that the online tool, where a signature is not required could lead to a significant increase in fraudulent LPAs being registered.

The OPG clearly doesn’t share this view. Its latest annual report suggests that it is willing to take risks between empowering people and the issues of safeguarding. A risk indeed, given that safeguarding reports to the OPG have risen by 26% in the past year.

SFE Study

Considerations involving making an LPA tend to involve cost, and the major attraction of the digital LPA is that it appears simple with no requirement for advice.

However, a new study shows that this may well be a false economy. Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), a not for profit organisation of solicitors and legal professionals specialising in issues involving elderly and vulnerable clients, have undertaken a study with willing members of the public to test the effectiveness and understanding people have of an LPA compared with their impressions and understanding once receiving a solicitor’s advice.

The results of the study show that people were surprised with the complexity of the forms when attempting to go alone, and pleasantly surprised by the added value that receiving a solicitor’s advice gave to the process and to their confidence that the finished registered LPA was right for them.

To read the study in full, please click here or visit the SFE website at www.sfe.legal

Humphries Kirk’s private client team includes Chris Keenan (Wareham), Adam Scott (Southbourne), Laura Staples (Crewkerne) and Felicity Hedger (Dorchester). Chris Keenan is a Director of SFE as well as being a Fully Accredited member. Adam Scott, Laura Staples and Felicity Hedger are all Associate Members of SFE.

How a Solicitor Can Help

Our clients often assume that they should be appointing their children as Attorneys. It is not a good idea to appoint children without consideration as to their ability to be able to make the tough decisions that may need taking in the future and whether they can be objective enough to manage your affairs with your best interests in mind.

We can advise on providing guidance for a range of situations or restricting authority to deal with your affairs in a particular way, which can enable smooth transition of the management of your affairs and ensure peace of mind that, should you ever not be able to manage your own affairs, they are in good hands, whoever you choose.

We do not charge you just for simply filling in a form. Our charges are also based on the time spent providing advice in order to ensure that you have all of the available information and have considered the best way of creating your LPAs so that they work for you.

If you would like to know more about LPAs then please contact a member of our private client team.