Recognising that the system for granting Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA), is ‘cumbersome, bureaucratic and complex’, the Ministry of Justice and Office of the Public Guardian is seeking to simplify the process and implement a predominately digital service. The main problem is that those who grant LPAs are not ‘digital natives’. Taking the process online will alienate many of them, or worse, they might be taken advantage of by unscrupulous “helpers”.
Most people who make LPAs need help. They are often elderly: some are vulnerable and many do not trust the internet. The current paper system safeguards those at risk by finding out what people seeking an LPA really want and helping to prevent “the lovely neighbour”, who is actually a crook, from making and registering an LPA fraudulently.
Advice and protection offered to people considering an LPA online may be limited. Although LPAs require a set form, there are many important choices, such as the identity of the attorneys, whether or not they can sell the house, or open and close accounts. If the process is as poor as online applications for probate have been, many LPAs will not fulfill individual needs because relevant points are not considered.
LPAs are complex with potentially very serious repercussions. The current system is not without flaws, but migrating the application online will not ameliorate them.
Delays in implementation exist not because of the process by which an LPA is created, but because staff in relevant financial organisations lack appropriate knowledge. Providing attorneys with access codes will not solve that problem, but may instead give unscrupulous attorneys greater scope to embezzle funds.
The current process could benefit from pragmatic change, but a digital only solution fails to serve those who have the greatest need to make LPAs. Hopefully, decision makers will agree.
Published in The Legal Diary – 05 November 2021