A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.
In May 2014, the Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched its online LPA tool, which it claims allows people to create the documents without the need for professional advice from a solicitor.
However, a new report, published by a coalition of organisations led by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) – an independent, national organisation of solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers – warns that anyone creating an LPA without taking specialist legal advice faces a significantly higher risk of being left with an ineffective legal document, incurring additional application fees, and even becoming a victim of fraud or coercion.
The report documents the results of a study conducted by SFE, whereby participants were invited to create LPAs using the OPG’s online tool and other ‘DIY’ methods.
The study revealed that:
- Some of the forms did not accurately express the way in which participants would want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future
- Documents made using DIY methods were more likely to contain elementary mistakes, rendering them ineffective and requiring additional application fees
- Following consultation with a solicitor, most participants made significant changes to the permissions of their documents regarding how and by whom their affairs were managed
In addition, the report raises concerns around the potential of a completely digital system proposed by the OPG, whereby ‘wet signatures’ – the physical signing of the document – would no longer be required.
According to Michael Swaden, Head of Private Client here at Manuel Swaden and a Full Accredited member of SFE: “The prospect of being able to submit an LPA application entirely digitally is extremely concerning, and raises some serious questions around the potential for fraud and financial abuse.”
To read the full report from SFE see here.