Proposed digital LPA reforms will reinforce the need for legal advice

January 7, 2022

Proposed changes to how lasting power of attorney (LPA) applications can be made will underline the need to have a qualified professional on the case, a solicitor at a leading Cheshire law firm has said.

Alex Mitchell, partner and a member of the wills and probate department at Warrington-based Watsons Solicitors, says changes that are out for consultation mean being correctly guided through the process will be more important than ever.

A lasting power of attorney is applied for by an individual, while they have the capacity to do so, and grants other people the right to manage their affairs, should they lose the capacity to do so themselves. This could be in the event of a serious illness, accident, or another event.

Alex believes the proposal to take the current paper system fully online could lead to mistakes being more easily made, with the potential for significant consequences, financial or otherwise.

Alex said: “A new digital system may not require a witness signature on the application. There will still need to be a certificate provider involved, so there will be some independent oversight, but there will be less of it.

“The certificate provider was brought in to provide additional security on top of witnesses, so I’m personally not convinced by removing witnesses we can create a better procedure.

“If brought in, these proposals will make having a solicitor, with their experience of the procedure and potential pitfalls all the more vital.”

The paper-based system does experience backlogs, with delays in documents being logged centrally. However, it does have the advantage of full accessibility for those who aren’t digitally literate, who will often be part of discussions around LPAs.

Alex concluded: “The quicker you can do it, the faster you can make a mistake. It might in the end seem straightforward, but the gravity of the situation may be lost.

“Giving someone the authority to withdraw your money or to sell your house is a significant step, and the process to do so should reflect that, which it might not if it takes just ten minutes online.

“You can tick what look like the correct boxes on a computer, but understanding the alternatives, restrictions and conditions, and the benefits of taking certain steps, it might not be right for you and your circumstances.

“Regardless of whether this does go through or not, you will still have the option of coming to your local solicitor’s office and going through the documents, taking advice and having the process explained to you in person, current circumstances on covid-19 aside.”

Watsons Solicitors, which has been established for more than 60 years, specialises in family law, employment law, wills and probate, and conveyancing.

The team of experienced solicitors each hold various accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.

If anyone has questions or queries relating to power of attorney, please contact Alex Mitchell.

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