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Online service to improve the use of Lasting Powers of Attorney

For attorneys managing their loved ones’ affairs under a Lasting Power of Attorney, the Office of Public Guardian (OPG) has introduced a new online service which will enable contact with banks and healthcare providers to be easier and therefore improving the speed with which important decisions can be made.

The online tool “Use a lasting power of attorney’  went live on the 17th July 2020 and all LPAs registered after this date will be able to make use of the service.

How does it work?

The donor and the attorneys (but not replacement attorneys) are provided with an access code when the LPA is registered.  The donor and attorneys can then set up an online account and “link” the LPAs that relate to them.  Access can then be granted to various institutions such as banks, doctor’s surgeries and hospitals.  A code is then generated which can be passed to the relevant party who will then have 30 days to view the LPA online.

What information can be seen?

When the banks, companies, doctors etc. view the LPA online they are able to see:

  • Name and date of birth of both the donor and the attorneys
  • How the attorneys are appointed (ie. Jointly and severally)
  • Whether there are any instructions or preferences contained in the LPA

It is important to note however, that the detail of the instructions and preferences are not revealed.  To view these, the institution is advised to request a copy of the paper document.  LPAs that are prepared by professionals will usually include at least one instruction and preference and unless the organisations seek to request a copy of the paper LPA to view the specific wording, there is a risk that decisions could be made which are against the donor’s wishes.

The new digital service will maintain the existing checks which include whether someone has the legal right to act as an attorney and the powers they may be entitled to thus protecting the vulnerable and elderly from abuse of an LPA.

Maxine Pritchard, Head of Financial Inclusion & Vulnerability – HSBC UK Retail said:

“The ongoing pandemic has brought challenges to us all and we’ve been working hard to ensure our customers, and their care network, are able to get the support they need. We’ve enabled a digital registration of Power of Attorney, removing the need for customers to visit a branch. We’re now able to authenticate the document so we know it’s genuine and of course the customer experience is greatly improved.”

Why use a professional Lasting Power of Attorney Service?

LPAs are incredibly powerful documents and it is very easy to make mistakes or misunderstand what they are and how they can be used.  Many online DIY websites to create Lasting Powers of Attorney help you complete the form but without professional legal advice and guidance, mistakes can happen.

In the last 12 months, the Office of the Public Guardian rejected nearly 22,000 applications in England and Wales according to a Which? Freedom of information request.  The highest rate of rejection in the past year was for finance and property LPAs. 

The number of health and welfare LPAs being registered annually has more than doubled in the last five years to 390,988 in 2019-20 but over 8,700 (2.2%) were turned down last year. 

The common reasons why LPAs are rejected include:

  • Instructions and preferences:  people who have drafted their own can often run into problems here when they try to restrict the power they are giving to their attorney.
  • Signing in the wrong order
  • Illegible information
  • Missing information

Our team have been busy helping people to create their Lasting Powers of Attorney safely during the coronavirus lockdown.   Currently there is no change to the requirements for signing and witnessing and we can ensure that this is done safely and in compliance with Government guidance.  You cannot witness signatures over video calls for Lasting Powers of Attorney.

For further details on making a Lasting Power of Attorney during the pandemic, please click here

There are plans to expand the service to LPAs registered before 17 July 2020 on a gradual basis. Time will tell whether there is an increase in the abuse of LPAs as a result of the new online facility being introduced.

Data showed the Office of Public Guardian made 721 applications to the Court of Protection to remove or censure LPAs in 2018/19 — 55 per cent more than the previous year and a record high.

The findings also showed this figure had doubled over the past two years and that making improper gifts and not acting in a vulnerable person’s best interests were the two main reasons for having attorneys censured and removed.

If you are concerned about your role as an attorney or believe an attorney is not acting in someone’s best interests, please contact our Court of Protection team for further advice and guidance.

If you would like to create a Lasting Power of Attorney, please call our team on 01926 354704 for advice and guidance on the next steps.

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