The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has recently consulted on its proposals to remove the need for a physical (or ‘wet’) signature to be made on Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) forms.
It proposed new legislation which would allow the donor and witnesses to sign electronically.
The intention is that this will make it easier for people to make LPA’s and also relieve some of the administrative burden on the OPG who seem to be finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the number of LPA’s that are being made. Typically when you are registering your LPA it can take the OPG over 15 weeks to complete that process.
Legal professionals have expressed concern over the proposals, with the Law Society, Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) all submitting responses which question the safety of removing the need for a wet signature. There were no details given about how the digital system would actually work.
The Law Society’s private client section expressed ‘grave concerns’ in its consultation response stating, “The removal of physical signatures removes an essential safeguard against abuse of a highly vulnerable sector of society, containing those people who are the most susceptible to fraud and duress,” it commented, “we would like to see extreme caution in moving away from the current, effective partially-digitised system.”
As Vice Chair of Solicitors for the Elderly, I was involved in writing the response to the consultation for SFE. Our members were concerned that by removing the need for ‘wet’ signatures from LPA’s, some of the effective safeguards that exist in the current system will be removed and there is a greater potential for abuse to take place.
An LPA is a very important document, it allows you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf and the implications for an individual if that power is abused or mishandled could be catastrophic. STEP noted in their response that other documents of similar power (wills, property transfers) still require a wet signature.
We await the OPG’s response with interest.
For further information on creating or amending a Lasting Power of Attorney please contact Justine Clowes on 01625 442141.