A new bill aimed at speeding up and simplifying the registration of Lasting Powers of Attorney has been passed by Parliament. The Powers of Attorney Act 2023 became law on 18 September 2023. Today at S Bish Estate Planning we look at this in more detail and also reiterate why ALL adults should have LPAs.
Currently, the Office of the Public Guardian deals with the registration of Lasting Powers of Attorney using a paper-based system. They have had to increase staffing levels to deal with the vast amounts of documents submitted, with over six million LPAs registered and in excess of 19 million pieces of paper submitted each year. The government believes that switching to an online service will streamline the process and reduce errors.
Once the digital system is in place, those making a Lasting Power of Attorney, known as donors, will need to register the document once it has been signed. They will be able to do this wholly online if they choose. There will also be the option to use a paper-based system or a mixture of online and paper.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document appointing someone to deal with your affairs on your behalf, should you ever become unable to do this yourself through mental incapacity.
You can make two types of LPA: one in respect of your property and financial affairs and one for your health and welfare decisions. You can have different attorneys for each if you wish.
Once you have made and registered an LPA, it can be kept as a safeguard in case it is ever needed.
Should I make and register a Lasting Power of Attorney?
LPAs are highly recommended. If you were to become unable to manage your own affairs, your loved ones could face difficulties without an LPA as no-one would legally be able to make decisions on your behalf.
If you put a property and financial affairs LPA in place, your attorney will be able to make sure your bills are paid, look after your home and ensure that your finances are properly managed. Without an LPA, your family might need to apply for a deputyship order, which can take many months to process and is substantially more expensive to arrange.
Once you have made an LPA, it can be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) ready for use. It is generally advisable to register an LPA straightaway, so that it is available immediately, should it ever be required.
The registration process will take around three months to be completed. The OPG may have questions as well, which could delay matters. Once it has been registered, it can be kept in case it is ever needed.
Changes taking effect with the new Powers of Attorney Act 2023
Under the new Act, it is for the donor to arrange for an LPA to be registered and this needs to be done as soon as the LPA has been made.
The Office of the Public Guardian will take over notifying the list of ‘people to be told’ named in the LPA. It will be open to anyone with a valid concern to raise this with the OPG.
Identity checks will be carried out on those applying to register an LPA.
When will the new digital system be available?
There is no set date yet for the new digital system. Amy Holmes, Public Guardian for England and Wales has said: “Our focus now is on continuing to develop, test and refine a new online platform and improved paper process to ensure we provide a service that will include additional safeguards and suit the needs of all our customers.”
In the meantime, making and registering an LPA in the ordinary way is still recommended, so that it is in place and ready to use.