Protecting Vulnerable People In The Digital Age

With the UK being on the cusp of a social care crisis, drastic measures were needed to avoid the much-needed system reaching catastrophic levels of service to those vulnerable people in society who need it most.

Subsequently, a House of Lords select committee has urged the Government to immediately increase spending on social care by £8 billion in order to restore social care to acceptable standards.

The landscape for later life planning is changing in a digital age, more and more people are being forced to use other means as a finance tool in their old age.

According to a report by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), nine in ten retirees will endure financial difficulties in later life because they have not been able to plan in their earlier life.

Canada Life Home Finance has stated that almost a quarter of homeowners are planning to use the equity in their homes to fund their care costs in later life rather than deplete their pension pot.

Yet more concerning is that ABI’s report suggests that over a quarter of retirees will be forced to sell their home to fund social care costs in the future if the Government do not overhaul the failing current system.

But Canada Life Home Finance research indicated that fewer people are looking to downsize by choice and would prefer to remain in their homes indefinitely.

With political uncertainty, retirees would opt to keep their homes and instead use the equity as opposed to other later life income streams.

In fact, research found that confidence was lacking when it came to pension funds, with many assuming their pension would be unable to cover the cost of later life.

Most troubling was that many are concerned as to how they are going to approach later life spending with 24% unsure as to how they will fund their care in later life, increasing from 18% in 2018.

Whilst society remains confused and uncertain as to how they are going to confront later life funding, ageing and the increase of diseases of the mind has also resulted in many more Lasting Powers of Attorney(LPAs). Data obtained from the Family Court by law firm Wilsons confirmed the number of registered LPAs rose to almost 900,000 in 2019, a 192% increase on the 273,583 new LPAs in 2013.

However, with an exponential increase of LPAs there has been a surge of LPA abuse. Research from law firm Nockolds found a significant rise (71%) in the number of Court actions related to LPA misuse from 2016/17 to 2017/18. Most cases related to improper gifts and not acting in the vulnerable person’s best interests. In addition, the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched 1,186 safeguarding investigations in 2017/18, up 50% from the previous year.

Furthermore, following the Law Commission’s report and recommendations on e-signatures as opposed to wet signatures, they confirmed electronic signatures are legally binding in most cases but have omitted Wills.

With the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) proposing digital signatures for LPAs in 2017 which would have removed the need for a wet-signature, there were concerns over vulnerable people being at risk of fraud through electronic signatures.

Introducing e-signatures for LPAs could significantly increase cases of financial abuse and fraud, whereby dishonest family members could easily register an LPA without any proof the donor understood the details and consequences of what they were entering into.

The social care issue, influx of LPA abuse and fraud is disconcerting, affecting the lives of numerous present and future clients.

To tackle these issues and assist in safeguarding your clients, the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW), the self-regulatory body which promotes the profession of Willwriting, is hosting an informative and engaging ‘Mental Capacity Act 2005 including Lasting Powers of Attorney’ course. This will take place on Tuesday 11th February at the Ibis Styles Hotel, Birmingham Airport/NEC.

By attending this valuable course, you will return to your workplace having a much wider knowledge and understanding of this field and will be able to assist and protect your clients to the best of your abilities.

The Institute will also be holding an ‘Advising the Elderly’ course on Tuesday 18th February, make sure to put this date in your diary!

To book your place and find out more details about the courses click here.

This article was submitted to be published by the Institute of Professional Willwriters as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.

1 Comment

  • test

    This is an excellent article. There is nothing on the LPA itself about either the need to keep accounts or the rules on gifting. People are encouraged to DIY LPAs, without any professional advice. It’s little wonder they are misused.

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