The process of applying for a lasting power of attorney (LPA) is to be made easier and simpler, Justice Minister Simon Hughes has announced.
An LPA enables the person making the arrangement – the donor – to give a trusted person, such as a relative, business partner or solicitor, the legal authority to manage their financial and property matters, such as operating their bank account, if they become mentally or physically incapacitated. This person is known as an attorney.
An LPA can also be made allowing the donor to give an attorney – not necessarily the person handling their financial affairs – the power to make decisions on matters relating to their health and welfare.
In an announcement on 27 August, Mr Hughes said that new, simplified forms would be introduced that would allow people to state when they wished their LPA to come into effect.
Following feedback from the public, the forms for the health and welfare LPA and the property and finance LPA will not be combined.
Decisions to give or refuse consent to life-sustaining treatment can only be made by an attorney if the donor has specifically stated this on the form. A requirement for a signature and witness for the life sustaining treatment section of the LPA will be retained along with other existing safeguards, such as an appropriately qualified professional or someone the donor knows well certifying that, in their judgment, the donor understands the implications of making the LPA and is not acting under duress.
Mr Hughes said: “Having lasting powers of attorney is as important as having a will and these changes make it much easier for people to apply for one.
“LPAs give people the peace of mind of knowing that if they ever lose capacity, the important decisions about their life can be taken by someone they have chosen and can trust. We are keeping the right safeguards in place to protect the public at what can be a vulnerable time in a person’s life.”
The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) will launch the updated LPA application forms by early next year, complementing an online application process.
Lee McCLellan, a partner in Palmers’ Wills, Trusts and Probate department, said: “An LPA can only be used after it has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. An LPA for health and welfare, in particular, should always be registered immediately it is made, so that it is ready to use in case of an emergency.
“An LPA is very much like an insurance policy – you hope you will never need to use it, but it is invaluable if you do. At Palmers, we specialise in all aspects of creating and registering a Lasting Power of Attorney, and can advise on issues including when it should come into effect and how to cancel it. For more information, please contact our Wills and Probate department.”