Banks and financial institutions are too often failing those looking to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney.
So claims consumer champion Which following an investigation into whether the system as a whole is adequate.
Crucial gaps remain, it says, even though the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), which oversees the process, launched a consultation last July to explore ways to make registration simpler, safer and more accessible.
An LPA is a legal document where one person (the donor) gives another (the attorney) the power to make decisions on their behalf. It can be a lifeline if you fall ill and need your family to make an important financial decision on your behalf, or if you can no longer manage day-to-day finances on your own.
You can only register an LPA while you still have mental capacity. After that, it’s too late.
If you do lose capacity and don’t have an LPA in place, the person (or people) you want to act on your behalf will have to go through the long and difficult process of applying for a deputyship at the Court of Protection. This can take up to six months, and is expensive. In England and Wales it costs £164 for both a property and finance LPA and health and welfare LPA. A deputyship application is £365, as well as £100 for an assessment, and an annual supervision fee to the Court of between £35 and £320.
Every day the OPG receives around 2,000 applications to register LPAs, most of which are paper forms. That’s a lot of sheets of A4!
Which maintains that proposals outlined in the OPG’s modernising consultation – such as introducing a fast-tracking service, digitising parts of the registration process, and campaigns aimed at improving awareness among minority ethnic groups – “are much needed to make the system fit for purpose in the 21st century”.
Obtaining an LPA can be a daunting exercise and you would be well advised to go through a lawyer.
If you decide to do it yourself, then the forms can be found on the Gov.uk website or you can ask the OPG to post them to you.
The documents must be signed by a certificate provider who can attest to the donor’s capacity (often a doctor), by the attorneys and the donor themselves, and by other witnesses.
Your attorneys will need certified copies to register the LPA with financial institutions. A solicitor can provide them.
Different entities have different rules for how to register LPAs with them. However, they will all need to see the original power of attorney document or a certified copy and proof of each attorney’s identity and address.
Which says attorneys regularly encounter problems.
A November 2021 survey of more than 8,000 of its members with a registered LPA alleged a lack of knowledge among bank staff, complexities and delays.
Banks lost LPA documents, failed to properly explain the registration procedure or required applicants to make unnecessary trips to a branch.
Many attorneys complained banks asked for extra forms to be completed, and some demand to see the original LPA document. Several attorneys said they would like a system whereby the LPA is registered once and then recognised across all institutions.
“At the very least, banks should ensure staff better understand their own processes so they don’t cause mistakes,” stated Which. “Attorneys shouldn’t need to fight to have their legal authority recognised when they’ve done everything that’s been asked of them.”
Crucially though, get LPAs in place now because you never know when they will be needed.
“If only” is one of those phrases best avoided.