Plans revealed to modernise Lasting Power of Attorneys making the system faster and more accessible
The legal process for people to nominate a trusted friend or relative to look after their affairs if they lose the capacity to do so could be made quicker, simpler and easier to access under new Government proposals.
Under the plans, which have been put forward under a consultation called 'Modernising Lasting Powers of Attorney', the Government plans to look at how technology could be used to reform the current paper-based application process, increase safeguards, improve accessibility and speed up the service. It will also look at making the process of objecting to a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) simpler.
If someone experiences difficulties, such as a stroke, serious accident or dementia, that mean they can't make decisions anymore, they will need help managing their finances. A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document where someone (while they still have mental capacity to do so) nominates someone trusted to look after their affairs if they lost capacity.
Your representative should only ever make a choice for you if you're unable to make that specific decision at the time it needs to be made though. For example, if you fall into a coma, your representative would start looking after your affairs. Yet if you wake from the coma, you should be able to make your own decisions again.
We've more on the Government's proposed shake-up to the system below, but you can also read the full Government consultation online. The plans were published on 20 July and are open for consultation until 13 October 2021. Also see our Power of Attorney guide for more info on what is and how to make one.
The application process could be sped-up and increased safeguards could mean better protection against fraud and abuse
The Government says it hopes the proposals will make it easier and safer for people to make and register for an LPA. Within the consultation, the Government outlines several key changes which include:
- Speeding up the application process by scrapping the four-week objection period. Under the current system, the target for registration of an LPA is 40 working days. Once the LPA is confirmed, there is then a four-week statutory period in which objections can be made. The process currently doesn't consider the severity of the donor's (the person giving power of attorney) condition, and even if the person loses capacity during the waiting period, the attorney isn't able to start acting on the donor's behalf.
Under the proposals, automated digital checks could begin as soon as the LPA is created and is sent for registration straight away, and the four-week statutory period could be completely removed, making the whole process quicker.
- Witnessing of LPAs could be done remotely or removed altogether. Currently, you must have a witness at the signing of your LPA and this must be done in person.
However, under the proposals, the Government will look at whether witnessing could be done remotely to make the process easier, or whether the need for a witness could be scrapped altogether and replaced with a new safeguard, such as signing an electronic document.
- More protections could be introduced to protect the system from fraud. Currently, the Office of Public Guardian (OPG), which administers LPA applications, has the power to halt or stop an LPA from going through, but it is largely reliant on third parties raising concerns.
Under the proposals, the Government would introduce new checks, such as identity checks, that the OPG could carry. It could then stop or delay an LPA's registration if it has any concerns to help protect against fraud and abuse.
- Changing who can object to an LPA. Currently, only the donor, attorneys and persons named in the LPA) can object.
But under the plans, this would change meaning anyone with concerns would be able to object to an LPA, with all objections being sent to the OPG.
- Changing when people can object. Currently, any objection to an LPA must be raised in a statutory four-week period which forms part of the registration process.
However, this could change to allow people to object at any point from when the donor starts creating the LPA to the point at which it is registered.
What does the Government say?
Justice Minister, Alex Chalk MP, said: "A lasting power of attorney provides comfort and security to millions of people as they plan for old age. These changes will make the service quicker to use, easy to access and even more secure from fraud."
Nick Goodwin, Public Guardian for England and Wales, added: "This consultation puts forward proposals which will allow us to make the service fit for the modern world – one that can be accessed online, and which grants OPG the power to conduct thorough checks to protect against fraud while making it easier for people to raise concerns."