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Why you need legal advice when drawing up a Lasting Power of Attorney

View profile for Sue Nicholson
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Having a Lasting Power of Attorney is an excellent way to protect your future in the event that you are no longer able to make important decisions about your financial, property or medical affairs.  A recent report however has highlighted the concerns around the different methods to produce an LPA, mainly the use of online or ‘DIY’ tools. 

Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) has worked with a number of different organisations including Action on Elder Abuse, Anchor, Contact the Elderly and SOLLA to discover the pitfalls of using online tools compared to seeking legal advice from a solicitor.  The report, ‘The Real Cost of DIY LPAs’ focusses on the Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) online tool which was launched in May 2014.  This was implemented with the purpose to provide people with a way to create LPAs without going to a solicitor.

‘DIY’ Lasting Power of Attorney tools

Sue Nicholson, Private Client Lawyer for Warner Goodman LLP, commented, “The report has shown the dangers that can be associated with not seeking legal advice and using tools such as this Government one to produce an LPA.  People could be left with an ineffective legal document due to missing information or signatures, which could lead to additional fees should anything need rectifying or replacing, and they could even become a victim of fraud.”

The main concerns that have been raised from the report show that the Government tool, as well as other ‘DIY’ methods, do not accurately express the way in which respondents would want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future; the main purpose of an LPA.  “The participants in the survey were asked to create an LPA using the online tool before then consulting a solicitor to review the document,” explains Sue.  “Following these solicitor consultations it was shown that the DIY tools had a higher likelihood of mistakes, and also significant changes to the permissions in the document had to be changed which, in reality, would incur an additional cost.”

Lasting Power of Attorneys on the rise

Further proposals from the Government include the move from requiring a physical signature on the document to a completely digital system.  Sue continues, “This is an extremely concerning prospect and again opens people up to becoming victims of fraudulent activity and financial abuse.”

The number of LPAs being registered has been increasing since the launch of the new online tool with over half a million registered in 2015/16 alone.  The OPG is actively trying to convince more people to apply for LPAs online, having set a target for the service to generate 30% of all applications from April 2016 to March 2017.    

Importance of Lasting Power of Attorney’s

“It’s encouraging to see the numbers of those creating LPAs rising, and a positive from the OPG campaign has been the heightened awareness of the importance of them,” Sue concludes. “However, this is an extremely important document that could have severe ramifications if not completed properly.  Drawing up an LPA is a complex matter and not one suitable for online use.  Being able to discuss your wants and needs with a person who is qualified to produce these is the safest way to ensure that you have considered all you need to, and that your wishes will truly be reflected should you lose mental capacity.”

Sue Nicholson is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, an organisation that strives to offer support and advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.  If you would like to find out more about how an LPA can put your mind at rest when making plans for your future you can contact Sue on 01329 222075 or email privateclientenquiry@warnergoodman.co.uk.  

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.