The process of applying for a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is currently predominantly paper-based, with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) receiving 19 million sheets of paper in the form of hard copy LPAs in 2019/20, writes Jacqui Pearce of Woodfines Solicitors.
The inefficiencies that result from the handling and storage of such large quantities of paper documents have led the OPG to launch a consultation on the digitisation of the LPA process.
The consultation, which opened on 20 July and will close on 13 October 2021, sets out proposals for the increased use of technology to modernise and speed up the process.
What are LPAs?
Introduced in 2007, an LPA is a legal document enabling one person (the donor) to give another person or people (the attorney(s)) the legal power to make decisions on their behalf, should they lose mental capacity. There are two types of LPA:
1) Health and Welfare
2) Property and Financial Affairs
A Property and Financial Affairs LPA is valid from registration, a Health and Welfare LPA, by contrast, not only has the same registration requirement, but can also be used only if the Donor lacks capacity to take such decisions for him/herself.
Modernising lasting powers of attorney
In a blog published on 22 July, the Office of the Public Guardian stated: “The development of digital channels has transformed the way people think and act and we need to adapt our processes to ensure we meet the needs of the public.”
It continued: “Our ambition is to use technology to improve our LPA services, without compromising safety or limiting access for people who aren’t online, and the launch of our consultation marks an important next step in making LPAs safer, simpler and fit for the future.”
The proposals to be explored are as follows:
- Changing the rules around witnesses, for example by using digital methods to support remote witnessing or replacing the need for a witness with a similar safeguard.
- Improving the application process, including reducing the chance of applications being rejected and introducing facilities to store completed LPAs digitally before they are sent for registration.
- Widening the OPG’s powers to carry out more extensive checks on LPAs and to take action to halt or delay registration outside of the Court of Protection where those checks are failed or inconclusive.
- Clarifying and streamlining the current processes for objecting to the registration of an LPA, and exploring at which point in the process objections are best raised.
- Increasing service efficiency by reducing the amount of time it takes someone to create and register an LPA.
- Exploring whether a new, ‘urgent’ service is required to quickly register LPAs for those who need one quickly.
- Better supporting solicitors to access the service, and how this might best be achieved
Part of a wider overhaul
The consultation comes after HMCTS’s probate service moved fully online at the end of 2020, in response to the rapid acceleration of digitisation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The online service, first introduced in 2018, was part of a wider overhaul of HMCTS that began in 2016, which aimed to modernise and centralise what many called an archaic and inefficient system.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the closure of regional probate offices and kinks in the online system, has resulted in significant delays.
For more information about the current state of probate delays, see our Wills & Probate team’s update here.
The publication of the consultation document will be succeeded by a number of online workshops exploring the proposals in more detail, which will take place throughout August and September.
All interested parties are encouraged to attend, and those who wish to respond to the consultation can do so on the government’s website.
In the meantime, our Wills, Trusts & Probate department is on hand to help our clients create and register an LPA as quickly and efficiently as possible.
To get in touch, please call our team on 0344 967 2505 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
by Jacqui Pearce
Advertising feature with Woodfines Solicitors