I have just read an article on the Law Society Gazette’s website about Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs).
It says that investigations into the actions of attorneys appointed under the (LPA) procedure soared by more than 40% in the past year.
Ruth Pyatt, director at legal group Solicitors for the Elderly said that they had noted a rise in ‘DIY and online submissions’ for LPAs, potentially leaving people at risk of attorneys making mistakes or, ‘in the worst cases, abuse’.
LPAs allow Attorneys, often friends or relations, to manage your personal and financial affairs should you lose the mental capacity to do it yourself. The LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), an arm of the Ministry of Justice.
Once the LPA is registered, the Attorney is not monitored or supervised unless an issue arises or a complaint is made by someone, often another family member. At the stage, the OPG will intervene and the whole process can become unpleasant and sometimes grind to a halt.
If an LPA is not in place when a person loses capacity to make their own decisions, Deputies are appointed by the Court of Protection. Some, including Former Court of Protection judge Denzil Lush, believe the Deputyship system is safer because it involves closer supervision and accounting but on the other hand, it can be a costly faff that most families would rather Avoid.
So, what to do?
DIY is okay if everyone agrees on what is best and can work their way through the process. On the other hand, it does not give you the chance to assess all options properly and to make sure that what you are putting in place is practical and workable. We involve the whole family, where appropriate, in the process so everyone is clear on their rights and responsibilities
LPAs often need to be used when the person is in a vulnerable state and emotions can be running high. Doing it properly from day one allows all of that to be talked through and worked out, with safeguards in place to protect the parties when trouble does arise.
It is not a panacea. Storms will still brew and arguments will still be had. Getting the best advice at the outset gets you in the best position you can be and it is worth paying for. The LPA should not be taken as the only solution to future problems and a lawyer will discuss appropriate Will, Trust and financial planning with you as well. It is the advice that is valuable, not just ticking boxes on a form.