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The risks of moving Lasting Powers of Attorney online

Dawn Joughin shares the Law Society’s concerns over the government’s move to a ‘digital by default’ approach to Lasting Powers of Attorney

The government is pressing ahead with its expansion of the online applications process for making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This is despite the concerns of many lawyers working in the field of Private Client Law expressing their concerns that the move will increase the risk of fraud and abuse.

A Lasting Power of Attorney allows someone to appoint one or more other people to take decisions for them if they lose mental capacity and since 2013 individuals have been able to make an application online via the central government website.

However, many lawyers who work on a day-to-day basis with clients looking to make a Lasting Power of Attorney have warned that the new system, which as the Cabinet Office admits, was brought in to save money, is vulnerable to abuse and ultimately to fraud.

Here at Canter Levin & Berg, our own Dawn Joughin, Head of our Private Client Department and a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, has joined with other lawyers to voice her concerns about the scheme, saying:

“Owing to some recent high-profile scandals, more than ever before there is an increased awareness in society of cases of elderly people who have suffered physical abuse.

Whilst it has received much less publicity, there has also been a marked increase in the number of cases of financial abuse being reported to the Office of the Public Guardian for investigation.

The government should and must be aware of the increase. It is therefore beyond my comprehension that the government chooses to ignore the feed back from the Law Society, Solicitors for the Elderly, and those involved on a daily basis with the aftermath of financial abuse, and press ahead with a digitizing service for Lasting Powers of Attorney.

The new system, which enables online applications, with no “wet signature” is open to wholesale abuse of the elderly and vulnerable in society. Lasting Powers of Attorney were introduced to deal with the shortcomings of the old Enduring Powers of Attorney, and provided more checks on an abuse of the system.  By enabling an online application the government is setting the clock back 7 years.

The only possible reason and justification for the government pressing ahead with the proposal can be financial i.e. a money-saving exercise on the basis a digitalized system will be capable of being run at a lower cost, with lower staffing levels.

I would urge the government to seriously reconsider the impact digitalizing the system will have before we see an even greater rise in financial abuse cases.”

Get legal advice on a Lasting Power of Attorney at Canter Levin & Berg

As far as Lasting Powers of Attorney are concerned, it pays to get advice sooner rather than later from an appropriately qualified and experienced legal professional. The Private Client Law department at Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors are here to help when it comes to drafting a Lasting Power of Attorney, or with any other legal queries you might have regarding preparations for later life and your estate. To find out more about how we can help call 0151 239 1181 today to arrange a consultation with a member of our Private Client legal team.

By Dawn Joughin
Solicitors for the Elderly