Powers of Attorney to be made safer and simpler

The process of managing a loved one or family members’s affairs using a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is to be made simpler and safer.

An LPA is a legal document that allows people to appoint someone else (an attorney) to make decisions about their welfare, money or property.

They are often used by older people to choose someone they know and trust to make decisions for them should they lose capacity in the future – but can be made by anyone over the age of 18.

The number of registered LPAs has increased enormously in recent years to more than five million, but the process of making one retains many paper-based features that are over 30 years old.

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), which administers the system, has begun a public consultation to examine the entire process – with a view to improving measures to prevent fraud and abuse while introducing a mainly digital service.

It will examine how technology can be used to update methods of witnessing, improve access and speed up the service.

The consultation will propose widening the OPG’s legal powers to check identities and stop or delay any registrations that raise concern.

It will also look at making the process for objecting to the registration of an LPA simpler to help stop potentially abusive LPAs.

While the service will become predominantly digital, alternatives such as paper will remain for those unable to use the internet. Any substantial changes will require amendments to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 which brought in the current system.

Justice Minister Alex Chalk said: “A lasting power of attorney provides comfort and security to millions of people as they plan for old age.”

Nick Goodwin, Public Guardian for England and Wales, said: “More people are taking the vital step to plan for the future by applying for lasting powers of attorney, and we want to make sure that it is as safe and simple as possible to do so.”

The consultation will look at:

• How witnessing works, and whether remote witnessing or other safeguards are desirable
• How to reduce the chance of an LPA being rejected due to avoidable errors
• Whether the OPG’s remit should be expanded to have the legal authority to carry out further checks such as identification verification
• How people can object to an LPA and the process itself
• Whether a new urgent service is needed to ensure those who need an LPA granted quickly can get one
• How solicitors access the service and the best way to facilitate this.

Please contact us if you would like more information about Lasting Powers of Attorney.