RECENT research and proposals on how to make Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) safer, simpler and fit for the future have caught the attention of legal experts who are voicing a need for caution. Elizabeth Young, partner and head of the Court of Protection team at top 150 law firm Roythornes Solicitors, explains what the consequences may be for the most vulnerable members of society and those close to them.
“Modernisation of ageing processes is slowly making way for increasing digitisation. It’s this agenda that has led to the Ministry of Justice and Office of the Public Guardian (OGP) beginning a journey towards making changes to Lasting Powers of Attorney.
“While the proposals published following a recent consultation on this topic intend to meet several aims related to witnessing, security and automation, there are several reasons to be cautious with the route forward.
“Suggested reforms include the transition from a paper-based LPA registration process to an easily accessible online system. Where this can offer valuable time savings for some, it may also entail the worrying prospect of removing the role of witnesses in person and replacing it with a digital witness – or no witness at all.
“Another potential outcome of the discussions is the role of the witness being combined with that of a certificate provider – an independent person who signs an LPA to confirm that that no fraud, undue pressure or abuse is being used to influence the individual supported by the LPA.
“Although the OGP may be tasked with undertaking identification checks for all parties to an LPA, it will not be tasked with enhanced checks for attorneys – such as background criminal record and bankruptcy searches.
“In the vast number of cases, this will not be a problem or a cause for concern. However, there is no intention to reintroduce the requirement to give notice of registrations, so objections are still only possible before the process begins. With no notice needed, any objecting individuals will not be given adequate consideration under the current process that will not form part of the potential changes.
“Managing the affairs of someone who is incapable of doing so independently is a huge responsibility and something that should not be awarded without a stringent process. The concern among practitioners like myself is that the suggested reforms are set to make LPAs easier to gain but not yet secure enough.”