DIY Lasting Power of Attorneys spark rise in investigations
Solicitors for the Elderly have urged people seek legal advice when drafting their Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) after investigations into the actions of attorneys and deputies soared by 45% in the last 12 months. Here Sue Nicholson, Associate Solicitor, explains why this risk is heightened when an online or DIY Lasting Power of Attorney is used and how using a solicitor can not only prevent risk but reduce costs in the future.
Royal London, pensions and investments firm, made a freedom of information request from the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) which showed that 1,729 investigations were carried out in the financial year 2017/18, compared to 1,199 in the previous year. “An LPA is an incredibly important document and essentially is giving someone else control over your welfare, property and assets if you decide you no longer wish to manage these, or if you lose capacity to do so yourself,” begins Sue. “It is therefore equally important that this document is treated with the due care and respect it deserves and that people are aware of what they should consider before making these decisions.”
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
There are two types of LPA; the first to cover property and financial affairs, and the second covering health and wellbeing.
A Health and Wellbeing LPA will relate to decisions being made regarding your health and social care, including where you will live, day to day care, consent to medical treatment and refusal or consent to life sustaining treatment.
A Property and Affairs LPA focusses on management of finances. Attorneys in this situation can make arrangements for investments, withdrawals of cash, payment of bills and sales of property.
How can a solicitor help in advising on a Lasting Power of Attorney?
As with writing a Will, choosing your attorneys will be a deeply personal decision to make, and sometimes can be clouded by relationship history or you could be put under pressure to choose certain people. “This is a common problem that we see in situations where an attorney has abused their position and something has gone wrong,” explains Sue. “By using a solicitor, we are in an independent position and can put your interests at the heart of our conversations instead of those around you. We can help you explore your different options and ensure that those you would like to choose are aware of the responsibilities involved.”
There are numerous financial, administrative and legal implications that are placed on attorneys and deputies of an LPA, and it is vital they are both happy to accept these and they understand the consequences of any errors or abuse. “We have seen cases of purposeful abuse, such as stealing money from the person’s account, or simple errors made because of a lack of awareness, such as not keeping records up to date or wrongly gifting money. By coming to us, we can not only work with and support you in making the LPA, but also those who are appointed as attorneys or deputies to ensure they understand all that is expected of them before they commit.”
There are also the practicalities that a solicitor can help overcome. “Mistakes can easily be made when doing an LPA yourself, not because you are not capable of doing so, but because the law is complicated, there are many steps involved and many decisions to be made,” continues Sue. “We have years of experience of working with our clients on their LPA, and know how to avoid those errors that can be made when drawing up the LPA and registering it. We also have rigorous mental capacity checks that we undertake before an LPA is drafted to ensure a person is not being coerced, and that they are aware of the decisions they are making.”
Sue concludes, “There is no disputing that a Lasting Power of Attorney is one of the most important documents we can have in our lifetime, alongside a Will. None of us know what lies for us around the corner and having as many plans in place for any situation can help protect us and our loved ones. Without an LPA, they would face many months of turmoil and high legal costs trying to gain deputyship, when it could have been granted with an LPA at a fraction of the time and cost. While the temptation may be to try to and do it yourself and avoid the costs of a solicitor, there can be no price put on having a document as important as this done correctly with all of your options in front of you.”
If you would like more information about drafting your Lasting Power of Attorney, you can contact Sue or the team on 01329 222075 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.