The Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) process is set to move into the 21st century, with a digital evolution on the cards. However, the #FreeBritney movement must be kept in mind throughout the consultation process to avoid putting people at risk of financial, emotional or physical abuse.
Although the US conservatorship system differs to the law in England and Wales, financial abuse and coercive control are still potential issues that can occur with the use of LPAs. As a result, robust safeguards must be applied to the process to protect those that are most vulnerable.
Entering the modern age
Promising much-needed improvements to the LPA system, the consultation, ‘Modernising Lasting Powers of Attorney’, will assess how technology can be used to fast-track the current paper-based process and improve accessibility.
Introduced in 2007, following the scrapping of the Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) system, the existing safeguards for LPAs are no longer suitable for the technological age that we live in
Going digital has its risks
Whilst a digital service would address many issues, it also has the potential to create them. Opening up the system to fraud and abuse, the Government must ensure that the public’s welfare is not compromised in order to make the process simpler.
For example, many elderly and vulnerable people are less tech-savvy, so considerations must be made to retain accessibility.
Switching to the remote witnessing of LPAs is also a potential concern. Being behind a computer screen provides anonymity, and it could lead to vulnerable people being pressured into signing an LPA against their will. It’s also questionable whether a person’s mental capacity can be accurately assessed using an online form.
When putting an LPA in place, people must ensure that they are choosing the best attorneys for the job. No matter how much a person loves a relative, if they cannot handle money responsibly, then they shouldn’t be chosen.
Attorneys will need to work together, so it’s also important that there aren’t any conflicts between them.
Finding the right advice
Power of Attorney documents can be highly complex, and without the correct advice, it is easy for people to fall into a range of legal pitfalls.
An LPA is needed when a person is at their most vulnerable, so it is essential that the meets their needs and the attorney has their best interests at heart. Otherwise, the person could find themselves in a similar situation to Britney Spears.
Digital transformation is a core part of future-proofing legal processes, but people’s needs must never be overlooked on the journey.
Learn more about LPAs by getting in touch with our private client team.
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Suzanne acts for high-net-worth individuals in all aspects of private client work. She has a particular interest in advising family business owners and has the STEP Advanced Certificate in family business advising.