Power of attorney refund scheme launched
A refund scheme for those who have been overcharged for their power of attorney fees has been launched today.
In an announcement made by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the refunds are being offered to those who may have been charged more than was necessary when they applied to register for powers of attorney between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2017.
Plans to repay those who were overcharged were originally announced in July last year. At the time, the expected total was around the £89 million mark.
According to the MoJ, the process to register for enduring powers of attorney became more efficient during this period and as a result, operating costs for the Office of the Public Guardian came down. However, the fee charged for the application did not reduce in line with this. The fee was subsequently lowered by the MoJ, a change which came into effect 1 April 2017.
Now, they have launched a refund scheme for those who paid the higher fee during the qualifying period.
Claims for full and partial refunds can be made by the donor via an online service, with only one form needing to be completed for each.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the number of applications eligible for the refund is around 1.7 million.
A number of regulatory organisations and professionals from within the sector have shared their thoughts on the launch of the refund scheme.
The Society of Will Writers said: “The SWW welcomes the news that those who have overpaid will have the opportunity to a refund and would certainly be interested to know how the OPG intends to notify those parties who have registered LPAs how they can go about claiming a refund. Presumably, they are the only organisation with access to this collective data. The SWW as a membership body will use our distribution channels to notify members who have assisted their clients over this time frame. I dare say that the administration of the refund scheme will more than eat up the savings made and I sincerely hope we don’t see any costs passed on to those who register their LPA over the next couple of years.”
The Institute of Professional Willwriters said: “The Ministry of Justice are doing the right thing in giving the refunds, but surely as they know who they owe it to, a mail merge and cheque to the relevant people is the fail safe way forward surely? More money will be wasted in adverts telling people they should claim and those who have since died or lost their faculties will often not be able to do anything, Come on MOJ please do the right thing!”
A spokesperson for the Law Society stated: “The justice system should not be set up to make a profit, and we are pleased the government is proactively addressing this issue.
“We want to encourage people to plan their futures – which may include registering a power of attorney. Making this process affordable and accessible is an important step in promoting them as an option.”
Karon Walton, Chief Legal Officer of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) comments:
“We are delighted that the Ministry of Justice has launched a refund scheme to reimburse customers for the overcharging of registration fees of Powers of Attorney, which extends back to 1st April 2013. This will affect customers who registered documents between 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2017, who will now have to seek a partial refund of the fees that they paid.
“It is unclear what impact this will have on the solicitors’ firms throughout the country who will need to advise their clients of the refund scheme. It also remains unclear how all those who applied for registration of powers of attorney without a solicitor will be alerted to the application process.
“This may well be an extremely complicated and drawn-out process, especially if a client has moved, lost capacity or passed away, so backdating applications across four years may present somewhat of a logistical nightmare for firms”
Kylie Simmonds, Chief Operating Officer, Trust Inheritance Ltd said: “Although, I accept this as a positive step for the MoJ to take, why can’t this be automatic, rather than putting the onus on the customer to apply for the refund. After all, they have access to the relevant data and will know who made applications to register during this period. Despite the claim only taking 10 minutes to complete online, it is still a pretty laborious process for customers with them having to re-input the same details included within the Lasting Powers of Attorney or Enduring Powers of Attorney. ”
Eloise Power, Barrister at Serjeants’ Inn stated: “This scheme will be welcomed by people who have registered LPAs between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2017 – many of whom will have been of modest means and will have had caring responsibilities for an elderly relative. It’s a sensible development which will hopefully be well publicised.”
Emily Deane, of STEP’s Technical Counsel stated: “STEP is delighted that the MOJ has recognised this surplus overpayment of fees and is proactively seeking to reimburse its customers. We encourage anyone who has been overcharged in the last four years to apply for their partial refund, by online application or a telephone call, to the OPG.”
Seb Shakh, Director of WillSuite stated: “Many in the industry will overlook this announcement as something only applicable to the donors and attorneys, however, it really is a fantastic opportunity advisors in the industry should capitalise.”
For those who believe they are eligible, claims can be made here: www.claim-power-of-attorney-refund.service.gov.uk