Lasting Powers of Attorney – Going Digital?

Is it time for Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) to go digital? An LPA is a legal document, by which a person (known as ‘the Donor’) appoints one or more persons (their ‘Attorneys’) to manage their affairs in the event of physical or mental incapacity.  There are two types of LPA, covering decisions about Property and Financial affairs or matters relating to Health and Care.  

An LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) before it can be used by the Attorneys.  In the case of Health and Care LPAs, the Donor must also be incapable of making decisions for themselves.

The current LPA documents are over 20 pages long.  The OPG have been looking into how the system could be improved and have recently completed a 10-week ‘Discovery Phase’.  They have spoken to various LPA users (including individuals, Solicitors, banks etc), government departments and agencies, to assess what changes could be made.  The OPG’s blog has revealed some of their findings.

It would seem that many issues stem from the LPA form itself – signatures being done in the wrong order, missing signatures, pages missing etc.   Perceptions around signatures also appear to have changed – presumably a result of the ‘digital age’ in which we now live – with the OPG suggesting that respondents value the use of signatures less and less.

The OPG considers there is an appetite for digital LPAs, and estimate that 96% of the current reasons for registration errors would be eliminated  if the paper forms were eradicated.

However, there are a number of concerns with introducing a Digital LPA system.  The OPG acknowledge that security was the main concern for respondents ie. that people are who they say they are and that personal data is safe online.

Even more concerning is the risk of the system being open to fraud and abuse.  The current system requires a ‘Certificate Provider’ to verify the Donor’s mental capacity – ie. that they understand the document and the authority it confers on their attorneys, and that they are not subject to any undue influence or pressure.  The OPG say that safeguarding is “extremely important” and this will no doubt be at the forefront of their minds when deciding how to change the system.  But whilst moving with the times can be a good thing, any new system must ensure that vulnerable persons are not subject to financial abuse as a result.

The next stage of the OPG’s research will be interesting and I, for one, eagerly anticipate the findings.   For the time being, the latest results are a reminder of the various pitfalls that can occur when making and registering LPAs.  Those problems can be avoided by having a professionally drawn-up LPA.   At Forbes Solicitors, our team of specialists are happy to advise on Lasting Powers of Attorney and take the strain from the process. Should you require any further information, please contact Lorraine Wilson in our Wills, Probate, Tax and Trusts Department on freephone 0800 975 2643 or send any question via our online contact form.

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