Major reforms for LPA registration on their way
The government has launched a consultation examining the mainly paper-based process of creating and registering Lasting Powers of Attorney with a view to using technology reform the process of witnessing, improve access and speed up the service
The consultation will propose widening the OPG’s legal powers to check identities and stop or delay any registrations that raise concern. It will also look at making the process for objecting to the registration of an LPA simpler to help stop potentially abusive LPAs.
The proposed changes will fundamentally alter and update a process that has been in place for decades but concedes that while the service will become predominantly digital , alternatives will need to remain for those unable to use the internet.
Justice Minister, Alex Chalk MP, said:
“A lasting power of attorney provides comfort and security to millions of people as they plan for old age. These changes will make the service quicker to use, easy to access and even more secure from fraud.”
The consultation, which will last for 12 weeks until the 13th October, will review
- 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.
Alongside a digitisation agenda, one of the drivers for change is the need to improve efficiency because the OPG’s operating costs are funded entirely by the income from the fees it charges. In 2019/20, OPG received 19 million sheets of paper in the form of hard copy LPAs and posted out a similar amount. The consultation identifies the inefficiency in handling such volumes with the knock on impact on staff requirements, equipment and storage. Without reform, the risk is LPA fees could increase in the same way as the proposals around probate fees.
The proposals outlined include
- removing the need for a witness altogether;
- expanding the remit of the OPG to verify individuals and tighten up on the risk of fraud;
- when and how long people may object for;
- the need for an expedited service;
- and the potential to provide greater integration into legal case management systems.
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.”
But any hope the reforms will be quick to enact may be short lived as any changes would require amendments to the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
Read the consultation in full and respond here: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/opg/modernising-lasting-powers-of-attorney/