Will Lasting Power of Attorney Go Digital?

Plans to introduce a new digital system to the process of setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) are firmly in place. The proposal originates from a consultation published by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) and is something that many legal experts agree would make the entire process more straightforward.

What is an LPA?

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you – the ‘donor’ – to appoint one or more people as ‘attorneys’ to make decisions on your behalf.
Whilst this could be a temporary appointment (e.g. the donor is in hospital recovering from hip surgery and needs help with paying bills), this is typically a permanent measure taken when the donor is no longer able to make decisions on their own due to a reduced mental capacity (e.g. they have been diagnosed with dementia).

Why Go Digital?

The proposed changes are primarily driven by the need to meet the intensifying demands of the public. According to the MOJ and OPJ, there are now more than five million LPAs registered across England and Wales; a number that is the result of a drastic increase in recent years. A digital refresh would significantly speed up the registration process, meaning that the government would be in a better place to deal with this recent surge.

Discussing the potential changes, Justice Minister Alex Chalke said: “An LPA is not just a piece of paper. It is a legal agreement that allows a person to set out their wishes and preferences and have peace of mind that these will be followed.”

He continued: “The protections that exist in the LPA are based on decades, if not centuries, of tradition and legal case law. They’re based on known and trusted paper-based social conventions, such as signing and witnessing. However, the world is changing and people increasingly want to access services digitally. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this demand.”

Old System vs. New System

The current system relies on a paper-based application process that can take months for powers to be handed over. Whilst the new system would keep some paper-based features for those who could not access digital platforms, it would primarily operate digitally.

The new system would include features such as a fast-track to grant LPAs in urgent cases, the removal of the requirement for a witness, and a digital checking service. However, a big concern posed by this digital makeover is the increased likelihood of elderly or vulnerable people being exploited or coerced. Therefore, if this digitalisation is going to work moving forward, the necessary safeguards to protect against this happening will have to be put in place.

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This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.