The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), the Government body
that deals with registration of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs),
has recently announced that it will be possible to complete LPAs
and pay LPA registration fees online by December 2012. Other
measures announced by the OPG include improving the understanding
of attorney and deputy roles amongst financial institutions. These
are welcome developments.
LPAs are documents that individuals (donors) put in place to
appoint someone (an attorney) to deal with their property and
financial affairs and/or make decisions about their health and
welfare should they lose capacity to make those decisions
themselves in the future. They are very useful documents to have in
place but can only be used once registered with the OPG. They were
introduced in 2007 when they replaced the old form of Enduring
Power of Attorney (EPA). However, since then concerns over the
efficiency of the registration process have been raised. In
particular, errors are often made by those completing LPAs (many
argue that this is because the documents are too lengthy and
confusing) resulting in some LPAs being returned by the OPG as
invalid. Others are discouraged from making LPAs because they
perceive the process to be too complicated.
According to the OPG's 2012/13 Business Plan, by the end of
2012 registration efficiency will be improved by donors being able
to complete LPAs online using interactive software with built-in
error checking. This is the proposed first step towards the
OPG's ultimate aim of having a fully online system where LPA
registration can also be completed online. A timetable for
achieving this has not yet been announced as the OPG first needs to
deal with concerns over security and legislative changes to allow
for this system.
Scotland's Public Guardian has already launched an online
power of attorney registration system and currently gives
applicants the choice to receive their registration certificate and
accompanying documents online or by post. The OPG's proposals
are a welcome step in a similar direction, helping to make to
process easier and more efficient and ultimately encourage more
people to put LPAs in place.
Awareness amongst banks
In addition to the above, the OPG has announced its plans to
work with financial institutions to improve awareness and
understanding within the banking and finance sector of the rights
and responsibilities of attorneys and deputies (individuals
appointed by the Court of Protection to deal with an incapacitated
person's financial affairs where no LPA has been made) by
This is a welcome move that follows concerns raised by the Law
Society with the British Bankers Association and the OPG about the
lack of understanding amongst banks in this area - a longstanding
source of frustration for practitioners and attorneys alike. In
numerous cases banks have taken many months to recognise a power of
attorney lodged with them during which time the donor's bank
account(s) cannot be accessed to provide for the incapacitated
donor's, often urgent, needs. In these cases, attorneys are
unable to discuss the donor's account with anyone in branch or
on the telephone as they are not the named account holder and are
often passed from department to department within banks. There is
lack of consistency in approach to dealing with LPAs and EPAs. We
will be following the introduction of this much needed measure to
combat these difficulties with interest.
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A well-meaning friend, relative or even a carer of a deceased person may take what they believe are helpful steps to tidy up a deceased’s affairs in the days following their death to pave the way for those who will carry out the administration of the estate.
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