Regular readers of our Private Client blog may recall Sarah Playforth’s post in January on Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA). In this, she discussed the importance of making an LPA and drew attention to the Office of the Public Guardian’s (OPG) new LPA ‘wizard’. She explained that this tool had markedly simplified the process of making an LPA by allowing individuals to complete the majority of the process online. Predictably, the wizard has proved popular since its inception and a large number of non-lawyers have used it to create LPAs.
Sarah also noted a proposal by the OPG to put the entire LPA process online – thus dispensing with the need for actual signatures altogether. Over the summer, however, the OPG has dropped this idea.
Practitioners as well as the Law Society were concerned about abandoning so-called ‘wet signatures’ as electronic signatures could give fraudsters greater scope to take control of the finances of vulnerable people, in particular the elderly. This view was reflected in the majority of responses to the OPG’s consultation. Accordingly, the Justice Minister, Simon Hughes MP, announced on 21 August that the OPG would not be going ahead with this change.
Some might consider the OPG’s climb-down to be unwelcome. After all, and notwithstanding the already simplified LPA process, the need to collect the necessary signatures can be a bore! However, in view of the potential risks, the OPG’s decision is probably for the best.
Whilst everyone, irrespective of their age, should consider making an LPA, it must be remembered that a correctly created one confers important powers on attorneys. The OPG’s recent change of heart therefore raises a broader issue: once an LPA has been registered with the OPG, appointed attorneys can start to make important, indeed life-changing, decisions on the donor’s behalf. Individuals need to give careful thought to their LPAs and should not be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the simplicity of the online process.