With the current Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) system having come into effect in 2007, the government consultation on reforming the process is welcomed by many who are concerned about protecting those who lose mental capacity to manage their affairs.
An LPA is a legal document which allows an individual to give someone they trust (usually a relative or close friend), the authority to make decisions on their behalf. If the person who made the LPA loses the ability to deal with matters on their own, their attorney can step in to assist them in dealing with their affairs.
The LPA system is currently paper-based, with individuals reporting that the system has been difficult to navigate and that some banks are reluctant to accept LPAs.
Understanding Lasting Powers of Attorney
Consumer organisation Which conducted a survey of 2,000 individuals in November 2021, finding a lack of understanding of the system as well as difficulties in using it.
While 85% of those surveyed said they knew what an LPA is, many were confused as to exactly what signing an LPA meant.
Some 16% thought that once an LPA is registered, access to bank accounts is lost by the person who has made the LPA. A substantial 70% said that they did not need an LPA as they were healthy, possibly not realising that once capacity has been lost, it is too late to sign.
More than three quarters (77%) thought that an LPA could be signed at any time of life, again, not considering that they cannot make an LPA if they ever lose mental capacity, meaning they risk not having one in place, should it be needed.
Among younger people, there was even less understanding, with 26% of those aged 18-34 saying they did not know what an LPA is. By comparison, only 7% of those surveyed aged over 55, did not know what an LPA is.
Difficulties with banks
Which also uncovered difficulties in dealing with banks. Over 8,000 Which members with a registered LPA were questioned, with 60% saying that there was a lack of knowledge among bank staff. Some 38% said the process was complex and 28% experienced delays.
Of those questioned, 31% said that banks were the most difficult to deal with. Many people reported that banks had lost LPA documents, had not properly explained the registration process or had insisted on unnecessary trips to a branch.
Some banks even failed to give full access to attorneys acting under a registered LPA.
Lasting Power of Attorney reform
Reforms proposed include introducing a fast-track service, digitising the registration process and increasing awareness of the system.
The government hopes to improve access and increase safeguards. Services are intended to go online, but the intention is to maintain a paper option, which is likely to benefit people with brain injuries, those in care homes, and those with degenerative cognitive conditions. This could also be important for the estimated five million people aged 55 or over who do not have access to the internet and those who struggle with using online software.
If you would like to make Lasting Powers of Attorney, but are unsure of the process or how the documents might benefit you, you may find it helpful to speak to a professional legal adviser who specialises in the preparation of LPAs.
Many people are unaware that there are additional clauses which can be included in LPAs to provide better guidance to your attorneys and tailor their powers to your needs and circumstances. These clauses are not available using the online gov.uk service. At BakerLaw we can discuss LPAs with you, and will provide advice tailored to your personal circumstances to ensure that the LPAs you prepare will give you the best possible protection based on your needs.
Please contact us on 01252 733 770 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment to speak to one of our expert lawyers about Lasting Powers of Attorney. You can also visit our Lasting Powers of Attorney page for more details on the documents and our service.