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Government launches consultation on reform of lasting power of attorney





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Jacqui Pearce, Woodfines Solicitors (50201260)
Jacqui Pearce, Woodfines Solicitors (50201260)

The process of applying for a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is currently predominantly paper-based, with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) receiving 19 million sheets of paper in 2019/20. The inefficiencies resulting from the handling of such large quantities of documents led the OPG to launch a consultation on the digitisation of the process.

The consultation, which closes on October 13, sets out proposals for the increased use of technology to speed up the process.

What are LPAs?

Introduced in 2007, an LPA is a legal document enabling one person (the donor) to give another person or people (the attorney(s)) the legal power to make decisions on their behalf, should they lose mental capacity. There are two types of LPA:

  • Health and Welfare
  • Property and Financial Affairs

A Property and Financial Affairs LPA is valid from registration. A Health and Welfare LPA not only has the same registration requirement, but can be used only if the donor lacks capacity to take such decisions for him/herself.

Modernising lasting powers of attorney

In a blog published on 22 July, the OPG stated: “Our ambition is to use technology to improve our LPA services, without compromising safety or limiting access for people who aren’t online, and the launch of our consultation marks an important next step in making LPAs safer, simpler and fit for the future.”

Proposals to be explored include:

  • Changing the rules around witnesses, eg using digital methods to support remote witnessing or replacing the need for a witness with a similar safeguard.
  • Improving the application process, including reducing the chance of applications being rejected and introducing facilities to store completed LPAs digitally before they are sent for registration.
  • Widening the OPG’s powers to carry out more extensive checks on LPAs and to take action to halt or delay registration outside of the Court of Protection where those checks are failed or inconclusive.
  • Clarifying and streamlining the processes for objecting to the registration of an LPA, and exploring at which point in the process objections are best raised.
  • Increasing service efficiency by reducing the amount of time it takes someone to create and register an LPA.
  • Exploring whether a new, ‘urgent’ service is required to register LPAs for those who need one quickly.
  • Better supporting solicitors to access the service, and how this might best be achieved.

Part of a wider overhaul

The consultation comes after HMCTS’s probate service moved fully online at the end of 2020, in response to the acceleration of digitisation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The online service, first introduced in 2018, was part of a wider overhaul of HMCTS that began in 2016 to modernise what many called an archaic and inefficient system.

However, the pandemic, combined with the closure of regional probate offices and kinks in the online system has resulted in significant delays.

What next?

The consultation will include online workshops to explore the proposals in August and September. All interested parties are encouraged to attend, and those who wish to respond can do so on the government’s website.

In the meantime, our Wills, Trusts & Probate department is on hand to help our clients create and register an LPA as quickly and efficiently as possible. Call our team on 0344 967 2505 or email privateclient@woodfines.co.uk.

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