A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is designed to give you peace of mind. But at the moment, the process of setting one up can be a real headache.
So much so, it puts many people off. According to a recent survey of 2000 people, only 1 in 7 had taken the time to register an LPA. And it seems the outdated and difficult-to-navigate system is to blame.
Whilst the rest of the world has evolved in line with digital advancements, the LPA process – operated by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) – has remained unchanged for the last 30 years. It still requires many paper-based features. And as a result, making and registering an LPA is a very slow and confusing process that leaves people vulnerable to fraud.
But fortunately, things are about to change.
Following a consultation in 2021, the government has set out plans to transform the LPA system, intending to make it quicker to use, easier to access and more secure.
A number of reforms have now been developed with stakeholders such as Age UK, the Law Society and the National Mental Capacity Forum. It’s still uncertain when these will come into effect, but improvement is on its way. And as specialist lasting power of attorney solicitors, here at St Helens Law, we believe it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
3 key changes to the lasting power of attorney system
1. An online application
For the first time, it will be possible to create an LPA completely online.
The OPG did introduce a digital tool in 2013, which helped to speed things up a little. But the final stages of the process – signing, witnessing, attesting, and delivering the LPA – still need to be completed on paper. Which is one of the main reasons why an LPA takes so long to register.
Allowing people to complete their LPA form digitally will bring it in line with other government services (such as applying for divorce). And is predicted to both reduce errors – by ensuring they’re identified and resolved much earlier – and make the overall process much more efficient.
It will also help to reduce the OPG’s carbon footprint.
Shockingly, they currently handle around 19 million pieces of paper every single year!
2. Strengthened verification process
Crucially, the reforms will also bolster safeguards to protect vulnerable people.
Not only is the old paper-based system susceptible to a number of security issues, it’s predominantly used by the elderly demographic – who are, unfortunately, most at risk of abuse and fraud.
Therefore, the proposed online LPA system will involve new identification checks – which require official documentation and information, such as a driving licence, passport or Government Gateway account. And it will be designed in such a way to strengthen security and improve protection.
During the consultation, the need for a witness was also considered.
Whilst this can slow registration down, it was felt, removing the role would decrease legal and psychological protection for the donor. As such, the role has been retained. But the government has agreed to investigate whether technology could be used to improve this part of the LPA process.
In the future, the donor, attorney and witness may not need to be in the same room when the document is signed. Which again, could make the process a lot simpler and save a lot of time.
A streamlined system with safeguards
Currently, a new LPA can take up to 12 weeks to be officially registered.
That’s quite a long time. Especially when you consider that most people creating an LPA are facing illness (or deteriorating mental capacity). And the LPA can’t legally be used until it’s registered.
The government has rejected the idea of introducing a fast-track service for those who urgently need to appoint a lasting power of attorney. But collectively, the reforms proposed above are hoped to cut waiting times down to as little as 2 weeks – without compromising protection or security.
Contact our power of attorney solicitors today
Modernisation of LPAs is long overdue.
The system is in desperate need of improvement. And when these changes come into effect, the process of managing your affairs (or those of a loved one) should be much quicker and easier. But even so, we wouldn’t recommend waiting.
If you’re interested in making an LPA, the sooner you get the ball rolling, the better. And at St Helens Law, we have a specialist wills and probate team who are more than happy to help.
Taking professional advice can not only prevent any issues later on – especially if you’re unsure of the process or your affairs are complex – but can also significantly speed things up. Our power of attorney solicitors have excellent knowledge and experience in completing LPA forms. And we can both assist in making your LPA and guide you step-by-step through the registration process.
To find out more about our LPA services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can request a free initial consultation with our LPA solicitors by filling out our online enquiry form. Or if you have any questions – about the LPA system (paper-based or digital) or how we can help – either give us a call on 01744 742360 or send an email to email@example.com.