The government is changing the process of creating a lasting power of attorney to a predominantly digital service as a way of improving it and making it simpler to use.
In an announcement today (July 20), the government said the number of registered LPAs had increased drastically in recent years to more than 5m, but the process was outdated.
It has launched a 12-week consultation which will examine the entire process of creating and registering an LPA, with a view to boosting the Office of the Public Guardian’s (OPG) powers to prevent fraud and abuse while introducing a mainly digital service.
It will examine how technology can be used to reform the process of witnessing, improving access and speeding up the service.
It will also propose widening the OPG’s legal powers to check identities and stop or delay any registrations that raise concern and look at making the process for objecting to the registration of an LPA simpler to help stop potentially abusive LPAs.
The government said the proposed changes would fundamentally alter and update a process that has been in place for decades.
Nick Goodwin, public guardian for England and Wales, said: “More people are taking the vital step to plan for the future by applying for lasting powers of attorney, and we want to make sure that it is as safe and simple as possible to do so.
“This consultation puts forward proposals which will allow us to make the service fit for the modern world – one that can be accessed online, and which grants OPG the power to conduct thorough checks to protect against fraud while making it easier for people to raise concerns.”
While the service will become predominantly digital, alternatives such as paper will remain for those unable to use the internet.
Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter, said LPAs were “vitally important” in the management of personal finances and provided protection in the fight against the vulnerable being defrauded.
“As such, it is pleasing to see the government put the wheels in motion to upgrade the system for people to register an LPA and to help combat the scourge of scams that we are unfortunately becoming all too familiar with,” she said.
“It is hoped the Office of the Public Guardian has used the pandemic to look at where the process can be streamlined and made easier so people can get an LPA in place with minimal fuss as having one can make a huge difference to someone’s finances.
"These changes must also include raising awareness with the public at large. Far too few people are aware of LPAs and their benefits, so any overhaul must seek to improve knowledge of them and how to go about attaining one.”
The consultation will look at:
- How witnessing works, and whether remote witnessing or other safeguards are desirable;
- How to reduce the chance of an LPA being rejected due to avoidable errors;
- Whether the OPG’s remit should be expanded to have the legal authority to carry out further checks such as identification verification;
- How people can object to an LPA and the process itself, as well as when is the right time for an objection to be made;
- Whether a new urgent service is needed to ensure those who need an LPA granted quickly can get one;
- How solicitors access the service and the best way to facilitate this.
Kim Jarvis, technical manager at Canada Life, labelled it as “a real step in the right direction” and said the current system was an “unsustainable process” in today’s society and would become increasingly outdated in years to come.