The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has issued guidance for staff of banks and utility companies on dealing with Powers of attorney (PoA) or Deputy court orders.
It notes that attitudes to PoAs are often confusing and inconsistent. It aims to help provide a 'smoother, more uniform and straightforward' customer experience, while ensuring safeguards are maintained.
A property and finance LPA can be used before the donor loses capacity, unless they stated otherwise or cancelled it.
Employees are warned not to assess capacity themselves, but only check documents are genuine, see who is allowed to make decisions and under what circumstances, and amend records so attorneys don’t have to go through the same procedures several times. Attorneys may have many companies to deal with, and asking for original documents causes delays.
There is nothing in law that says you must see the original LPA. Photocopies, scanned images and certified/office copies can be acceptable, depending on the risk. For utility companies, the risk might be relatively low. For banks, where attorneys could empty someone's accounts, the risk will be higher. Companies should publish clear policies for accepting legal documents, so attorneys and deputies know what to expect.
Once they have checked the PoA or court order is genuine, the person appointed has authority to act on behalf of the customer and should be treated as the customer themselves.
This is all good stuff and I hope it improves the service our clients get. It can be patchy, to say the least! If you have any issues, please contact us for help.