Latimer Hinks Solicitors has issued a stark warning about the Government’s online tool for Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA). In May 2014, the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched its online LPA tool, which it says allows people to create the documents without the need for professional advice from a solicitor.
Natalie Palmer, a Director at Latimer Hinks Solicitors, and regional coordinator of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), has warned that people creating an LPA without taking specialist legal advice face a significantly higher risk of being left with an ineffective legal document, incurring additional application fees, and even becoming a victim of fraud or coercion.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a powerful legal document, which allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.
A new report, published by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), raises concerns about the potential of a completely digital system proposed by the OPG, whereby ‘wet signatures’, the physical signing of documents, would no longer be required potentially paving the way for fraud.
The report also concluded that electronic forms did not accurately express the future wishes of participants; that DIY documents were likely to contain more mistakes, incurring additional fees; and most applicants, after consulting a solicitor, made significant changes to "off-the-peg” documents.
Natalie Palmer said: "The prospect of being able to submit an LPA application without so much as a signature is extremely worrying, and raises some serious questions about the potential for fraud and financial abuse.”
"An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have; it allows the delegation of potentially life-changing decisions about affairs, to a third party.
"It’s absolutely right to plan ahead for the future with LPAs, but granting someone authority over your affairs is a considerable responsibility. This is a specialist area of the law, and anyone considering an LPA should see a legal expert to ensure they get the right advice, consider all the options, and safeguards for the future.”
Solicitors for the Elderly is an independent, national organisation of lawyers providing specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers. Natalie Palmer is the regional coordinator of the organisation, in her capacity as Director of Latimer Hinks Solicitors, which was recognised as having the region’s best Private Client Team, at the Northern Law Awards, earlier this year.