Sign a digital LPA - and save yourself 20 weeks!

If you’re about to draft a Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) document, you might be in luck - as the process to sign paperwork and make things official could be about to get easier. 

An LPA is a legal document, allowing you (the donor) to appoint one or more people (attorneys) to make financial or healthcare decisions on your behalf. Attorneys can be family members, partners, friends or professionals such as a solicitor and they can be set up at any time in your life - but it is generally recommended you do this as early as possible, as you will need to prove you are of sound mind at the time of signing the document. There are two types of LPA — one concerns your health and care decisions; the other your property and financial affairs.

The reason why it is “powers” of attorney, is because once that document is signed, it can allow your attorney to use their “powers” contained within that document, to do things like pay bills on your behalf.  This is effective from the date of registration  unless you specify that the document only comes into effect when you, the donor, lacks the required mental capacity — for example, in the event of an accident or a deteriorating health condition, which would otherwise leave you unable to look after your affairs yourself.

Sounds pretty straight forward doesn’t it? Only there is currently a slight snag, in the form of long waiting times. It can take up to 20 weeks to sign an LPA and get it legally approved. It can also be a long journey, as many families can find they have their applications rejected, only to find they need to start the process again.

While this process is in place for safeguarding, the government has also admitted it needs reforming to bring it into the 21st century. We wrote a blog recently about a new digital LPA system which promised to offer a better service while safeguarding vulnerable individuals at the same time.

Also, once you have the LPA it can still be problematic as banks will have their own processes involved in how attorneys can access the donor’s money - which not only adds to the frustration of the situation, it’s also extremely emotionally distressing too.

The good news is that the Ministry of Justice and Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) are speaking to banks and legal firms to find ways to make the process better for both attorneys and donors.

One proposal is to allow remote signing of LPAs, which, during the lockdown last year, was introduced to help people to sign their wills. This could involve allowing applicants to video themselves signing a form or groups signing together over Zoom or FaceTime. There are concerns however that vulnerable people may be exploited and that there will be rising cases of financial abuse

You can start an LPA application online however, it MUST be signed and printed off in the right order to  save yourself weeks of delays by ensuring the paperwork is correct. Whilst many people will be tempted to make an LPA without legal advice there are a number of pitfalls that can have adverse effects if what is in place is not effective as was/is intended.

Other suggested reforms to cutting waiting times include reducing the statutory 4 weeks waiting period - currently in place to allow anyone to object to the LPA, but critics suggest any objections can still be submitted to the OPG in writing. Plus, there could be plans to fast-track urgent cases where health conditions are deteriorating fast, and create a level playing field that would force all service companies to treat LPAs in the same way.

There are also suggestions to help banks and financial institutions to stop freezing donor’s accounts where there is an active LPA in place, or create an online system with a digital pass that can share information, instead of attorneys having to provide documents to multiple companies.

While these proposals come through fruition, there are things you can do now if you’re already in the system that could help cut your waiting times. Things like making sure all your paperwork is in order and keeping conversations open with loved ones can really help make the process much smoother.

If you have any further queries about LPAs or wills, contact the private client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Liz Dalgetty

Liz Dalgetty

Consultant Solicitor & Notary Public

Tel: +44 (0) 1306 502251

Office: Dorking Office