In today’s digital era, the convenience of online services has become an integral part of our everyday lives. The UK government has taken a significant step forward in improving the process of creating Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) with The Powers of Attorney Act, which has recently received Royal Assent. The Act will bring about a new online system for completing LPAs whilst simultaneously introducing online checks for those making applications, strengthening existing fraud protection.
The new process will now be developed and tested by the Office of the Public Guardian. For those without access to the internet, an improved paper process will be introduced.
The current process for making LPA applications is entirely paper-based and includes processes that are over 30 years old. As a result, the Office of the Public Guardian currently handles over 19 million pieces of paper when processing applications. The changes aim to streamline and simplify the completion of LPAs online, making the process more accessible and efficient for clients. The government has also introduced a new digital payment system, making it easier to pay the registration fees associated with creating an LPA.
It is positive to see the Office of the Public Guardian taking advantage of the advent of technology, allowing clients to complete LPAs conveniently from the comfort of their own homes. It is hoped that the new digital system will save valuable time and resources, reducing the overall administrative burden.
Whilst the new online system purports to provide helpful guidance throughout the process, it is vital that clients making an LPA application understand the implications and complete the forms accurately. It has been reported that over 29,000 LPAs were rejected in the 12 months up to July 2023. In some situations, and considering that applications for LPAs can only be made where a client has mental capacity, it may be that such delays can lead to access to finances being lost.
A further concern regarding online applications is the potential for financial exploitation, coercion or undue influence. In the current economic climate where finances are stretched, there is sadly a greater potential for LPA abuse or the misuse of authority where granted.
The proposed changes to LPAs to allow for online completion and the implementation of ID checks mark a significant step forward in improving accessibility and efficiency for clients. Whilst we are looking forward to embracing these much-needed changes, we still foresee a key role for solicitors in the LPA application process. Consulting a solicitor can help to avoid errors in the application process and also put a further step in place to avoid instances of financial coercion or abuse.
To speak to an experienced member of our Private Client team about making an LPA application, please contact Jill Waddington.
For more information on these changes, visit the official UK government website at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/step-forward-to-online-lasting-power-of-attorneys.