DIY Lasting Powers of Attorneys – Are they really worth it?
15 November 2016 by Andrea Godfrey
Lasting powers of attorneys (“LPA’s) are probably one of the most important documents you may have to sign during your lifetime. However a recent survey has shown that the public are making LPA’s without any legal guidance which can have disastrous consequences.
LPA’s are a way of giving someone you trust the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf either when you lack mental capacity or at some time in the future if you no longer wish to make decisions for yourself. There are two types of LPA’s. One is for financial decisions which can mean the person you appoint (known as your attorney) can generally make decisions on things such as selling your property, paying your bills, investing your money etc. The other is Health and Care decisions and can only be used once you lose mental capacity. Here the attorney can generally make decisions about where you should live, your medication, give consent for operations and may be able to make decisions regarding life sustaining treatment.
Concerns are being raised about the so-called DIY LPA’s. A new report which has been published by the Solicitors for the Elderly (“SFE”) has warned that creating the LPA without taking legal advice could cause higher risks of the LPA being an ineffective legal document and leaving people at risk of financial abuse and potentially fraud.
The Office of the Public Guardian who are responsible for the registration of these documents have indicated that they may allow a digital signatures system so that the actual physical signing of the LPA would not be required. This opens up a serious debate regarding the potential fraud.
The SFE report shows the results of comparing cases where DIY LPA’s were completed against those clients who used a specialist legal advisor. It showed that:
• There is an increased risk of technical errors being made which lead to the OPG rejecting the forms. This not only prolongs the application but can also result in additional costs having to be paid.
• Some errors may not be picked up by the OPG which can lead to banks refusing to accept the LPA’s and thereby make them ineffective documents.
• It can significantly increase the risk of financial abuse. This could be where the person completes the form without actually understanding the consequences of the LPA.
Another reason for instructing a professional legal advisor is so that the various guidelines relevant to an LPA can be explained in depth.
The primary reason for doing DIY LPA’s is the belief and misguided conception that they can cost thousands of pounds, but for more information on the actual costs of LPAs as part of our WillsPlus package, please click here