Urgent warning about Government’s ‘risky’ online legal tool

15th November 2016

Urgent warning about Government’s ‘risky’ online legal tool

A coalition of organisations, including Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) and Action on Elder Abuse, have raised serious concerns about the Government’s online tool for creating Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs).

An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.

In May 2014, the Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched its online LPA tool, which it claims allows people to create the documents without the need for professional advice from a solicitor.

But a new report, published by a group of organisations led by SFE, warns that anyone creating an LPA without taking specialist legal advice faces a significantly higher risk of being left with an ineffective legal document, incurring additional application fees, and even becoming a victim of fraud or coercion.

The report also raises concerns around the potential of a completely digital system proposed by the OPG, whereby ‘wet signatures’ – the physical signing of the document – would no longer be required.

During a study conducted for the report, participants were invited to create LPAs using the OPG’s online tool and other ‘DIY’ methods. The study revealed that:

• Some of the forms did not accurately express the way in which participants would want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future

• Documents made using DIY methods were more likely to contain elementary mistakes, rendering them ineffective and requiring additional application fees

• Following consultation with a solicitor, most participants made significant changes to the permissions of their documents regarding how and by whom their affairs were managed

The number of LPAs being registered has increased steadily since the launch of the online tool, with over half a million in 2015/16 alone.

How can Gotelee help?

Lindsay Duckworth and Kay Baker of Gotelee are SFE-accredited and are committed to working with older and vulnerable clients.

We believe in building relationships for life. You may have relatives who can no longer take care of themselves, or you may simply wish to plan ahead.

Our lawyers are considerate and experienced in advising mature clients.

We are happy to visit clients at home, hospital or at their residential home. Alternatively, our offices in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Melton, Woodbridge and Felixstowe all have ground floor meeting rooms, ramps and convenient parking.

To find out more about any issue relating to an elderly person, including LPAs, call us on 01394 388605.

Kay Baker
Associate Solicitor
Practice Areas
Court of Protection
Elderly Client Advice
Making a Will
Trusts and Tax
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