Ministers plan to modernise the legal process allowing you to nominate someone to make decisions on your behalf if you lose the ability to act for yourself in later life.
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More than five million Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) are reportedly active in England and Wales. However, there have long been concerns about the ease of creating and enacting an LPA. The current process is still paper-based, and it could be many months before you’re able to grant a loved one or a solicitor power of attorney.
The current system is so outdated that much of it is from the previous Enduring Power of Attorney system, which was introduced in 1986 and replaced by LPA in 2007 following the enactment of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
The new plan is to make the service digital. A new digital service will undoubtedly cause concerns around accessibility for older people without internet access or who are not tech-savvy. However, paper-based and other alternative options will remain available.
These proposals come following the Office of the Public Guardian's (OPG) launch of a digital service in 2020, allowing those granted LPA to share details with relevant organisations securely online.
What is an LPA?
An LPA is a legally binding document. It enables you to appoint a person to make decisions about your affairs, typically concerning your health and welfare, finances, and any property you own.
While they’re typically enacted by older people – or encouraged by loved ones such as children – LPAs can be made by anyone over 18.
The plans are part of a three-month consultation process, which was launched by the Government today. The consultation aims to discover how technology can help reform the whole process, from witnessing a signature to the accessibility and speed of the service. The Government also wants to ensure the new system has improved safeguarding features to avoid instances of fraud and abuse. In line with this, it is proposed the Government will extend the OPG's powers.
The consultation and plans are also considering whether a “fast track” service may be appropriate for families who have a loved one experience a sudden decline in their health. However, this is likely to be the area where most concerns around fraud and abuse lie.
In a press release on the Government website, Justice Minister, Alex Chalk MP, said, “A lasting power of attorney provides comfort and security to millions of people as they plan for old age. These changes will make the service quicker to use, easy to access and even more secure from fraud.”
Nick Goodwin, Public Guardian for England and Wales, added, “More people are taking the vital step to plan for the future by applying for lasting powers of attorney, and we want to make sure that it is as safe and simple as possible to do so.
“This consultation puts forward proposals which will allow us to make the service fit for the modern world – one that can be accessed online, and which grants OPG the power to conduct thorough checks to protect against fraud while making it easier for people to raise concerns.”
The consultation is open until 13th October. Any substantial changes that are eventually made to the LPA process will require amendments to the Mental Capacity Act 2005.