Digital LPAs are here - but watch out for safeguarding

There have been calls for a long time to overhaul the outdated system for registering Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs). Now with the arrival of the digital system, we welcome the modernisation of the system - but some concerns remain about accessibility and safeguarding.

What is an LPA and how can it protect you?

LPAs are documents that enable loved ones to act on your behalf when you become unable to do so yourself.

There are two types of LPA. There’s the health and welfare, which outlines any end of life or medical care you wish to receive and the other, perhaps more well-known, is the financial LPA - which nominates an individual (an attorney) chosen by you, to manage your financial affairs, such as accessing your bank account for you and to pay bills, receive rent, or mortgage payments on your behalf.

It is important to note that there is a difference between a will and an LPA - and that is the LPA protects your wishes while you are still alive, while the will comes into force after your death.

The problems with registering LPAs are historic.

We wrote a blog recently about how there was a 20 week wait on average - some people were waiting much longer - to register their LPAs with the Office of Public Guardian (OPG).

There have always been delays associated with registering LPAs due to the fact that it involves a heavy form-filling process and the meticulous processes that meant the OPG were rejecting even the smallest of errors. The Covid-19 pandemic then exacerbated the problem due to people working from home or staff being on furlough.

The lesson here is: make sure you plan earlier!

As an aside here, our experience with clients in general see them register LPAs when they need them - i.e., their loved one has become seriously ill suddenly or are involved in an accident. Anyone can register an LPA at any time, in fact, the earlier you draft it the better, because you can prove you are of sound mind (therefore no disputes later) and you aren’t involved in any anxious waits for LPAs to be granted so that you can pay bills on behalf of family members to keep a roof over their head.

But going back to the topic…

While going digital promises to lighten the burden and modernise the LPAs by spotting errors much earlier and allowing them to be fixed online, rather than waiting for documents to be posted back and forth. It is thought this could reduce some of the 80,000 sheets of paper the OPG processes every day!

Not only is this a simpler process, it is kinder to the environment and we are very much in favour of that. However, we do have questions surrounding those who do not have access to the internet. Also, the digital system is still quite complicated - and is not very user friendly even to those who are digitally savvy.

And it seems we aren’t alone.

Along with fellow members of the legal community, we came across this blog that quotes the Law Society’s President, Lubna Shuja, who said: “Many people in care homes or hospitals do not have the ability to use a digital service. Additionally, there are still 1.5 million homes in the UK that do not have access to the internet. These homes are likely to be composed of people aged over 65 or are households with financial vulnerability.”

Shuja was also concerned about the lack of detail in the new ID verification system, adding: “Those who are not digitally literate may not access the digital system without significant support. It is therefore critical that people are given a genuine choice and that the service does not become digital by default.”

The OPG is still developing the new system and we hope some of these safeguarding concerns will become clearer.

If you have any questions about drafting your will or LPA, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Mehboob Dharamsi

Mehboob Dharamsi


Tel: +44 (0) 1932 588579

Office: Cobham Office

Email: [email protected]