Bringing LPAs into the digital age is one of the focuses of the Ministry of Justice’s 12-week consultation to consider how to modernise the process of creating them.
LPAs are currently made by completing and signing paper forms. Even the semi-digital process which was introduced in 2013 requires the forms to be completed online and then printed off for signature by all the parties. Many people believe this to be cumbersome, bureaucratic and complex.
Since then, technology has progressed, and many people now expect to be able to carry out most services online. The pandemic has also highlighted the constraints of the current system, including the volume of paper being used and the cost effectiveness and efficiency of the procedure. If the system is not modernised, the service will become unsustainable which will lead to higher fees, making it increasingly unaffordable.
The consultation is looking at seven proposals including:
- the role of witnesses and whether they are necessary
- the registration process
- the remit of the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) which registers LPAs
- how and when people can object to an LPA
- the speed of the service (including the potential introduction of a fast track service for when LPAs are required urgently)
- whether solicitors should be able to access the service.
Because access to and a wish to use digital systems is not universal, an offline procedure will also need to be maintained to ensure that the needs of these users are met.
Whilst modernisation will hopefully encourage more people to enter into LPAs and make the system more user-friendly, there is a fear that this could lead to vulnerable people being more at risk of abuse and coercion and sufficient safeguards will need to be included to prevent this occurring. A call for clearer guidance for all involved would also be beneficial to ensure that all parties, especially attorneys, understand their roles.
Digitalisation will inevitably lead to an increase in DIY LPAs, but the value of meeting with a solicitor to draw up an LPA should not be underestimated. Not only can the solicitor help to ensure that there is no abuse or coercion occurring when the documents are created and signed, they can provide advice to the donors and the attorneys on the attorneys’ role to ensure that no inadvertent abuse occurs. Furthermore, solicitors can advise on appropriate clauses to include in the documents to ensure that all LPAs are suitable for the donor’s current and future circumstances.
The consultation lasts until 13 October 2021 and responses can be submitted here.