A worrying warning has been issued by national organisation SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly). The warning concerns the government’s online tool for Lasting Powers of Attorney. SFE warn that the online Lasting Powers of Attorney tool is leaving people at risk of financial abuse and fraud.
This warning may come as a shock for many people but is published in a report which is backed by a coalition of organisations including SFE, Action on Elderly Abuse, Anchor, Contact the Elderly and SOLLA. These organisations have all raised serious concerns around the government’s online tool.
An Lasting Powers of Attorney allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions on their behalf. Decisions about care and finances in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or an illness such as dementia.
What concerns have been highlighted by the SFE report?
In May 2014, the government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched an online tool for creating a Lasting Powers of Attorney. It claims to allow people to create the documents without the need for professional advice from a solicitor.
However a new report, published by a coalition of organisations led by SFE, warns that creating an online Lasting Powers of Attorney without taking specialist legal advice increases the risk of being left with an ineffective legal document. Additional application fees may also be incurred and the client could even become a victim of fraud or coercion.
The report also raises concerns around the potential of a completely digital system as proposed by the OPG. A system whereby “wet signatures” – the physical signing of the document – would no longer be required.
During a study conducted for the report, participants were invited to create Lasting Powers of Attorneys using the online tool and other DIY methods. The study revealed that:
- Some of the forms did not accurately express the way in which participants would want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future.
- Documents made using DIY methods were more likely to contain elementary mistakes, rendering them ineffective and requiring additional application fees.
- Following consultation with a solicitor, most participants made significant changes to the permissions in their documents regarding how and by whom their affairs were to be managed.
What should you do if you are creating a Lasting Powers of Attorney?
An Lasting Powers of Attorney is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have. It allows you to pass potentially life changing decisions about your affairs onto a third party. It is absolutely right that people should be planning ahead for the future with Lasting Powers of Attorneys. However granting someone this sort of authority over your affairs is an extremely big responsibility for all parties involved.
This is a specialist area of the law and I would recommend that anyone considering an Lasting Powers of Attorney goes to a legal expert to ensure they get the right advice. They need to consider all the options and safeguard themselves for the future. It pays to think ahead and be prepared in advance. Powers of Attorney have so many practical uses for families in any number of situations. However the implications if they are not prepared properly can be severe.
If you would like to discuss Lasting Powers of Attorney please contact our Elderly, Care and Mental Capacity team on 01625 442148.
Justine has also been interviewed by Silk 106.9 FM regarding this topic, you can listen to a snippet of the interview below: