The risk of DIY LPAs
Lasting Powers of Attorney (“LPAs”) can be extremely useful, if not invaluable documents when made and used correctly. They allow you to choose ‘the who’, ‘the when’ and ‘the how’ in relation to decision-making for you in the event that you become unable to do so for yourself in the future. They can also allow your Attorneys to assist you if you are unable to get out and about, as they can access banks, pay bills and support with shopping even while you have capacity.
With greater access to information, there is now a prevalence of Wills and LPAs being completed at home or by unqualified or non-legal professionals. There is always a temptation to cut corners and save costs wherever possible, but if this is at the expense of the usefulness of such an important document, is it really worth it?
When it comes to legal documents, the answer is usually no and the advice is to leave it to the experts wherever possible. Even if you feel confident and familiar with the forms, you may not appreciate the extent of the decisions you make within the document, which could reach far further than you anticipate.
A recent study by Solicitors for the Elderly (“SFE”) looked at the completion of online LPAs by members of the public. As part of the study, people were given the opportunity to discuss their newly created LPAs with a Solicitor after creation. All participants reported after the meeting with the Solicitor that they would make changes to their LPAs after receiving proper advice.
A common area for confusion is where Attorneys are appointed jointly for some decisions. A joint appointment of Attorneys means that all Attorneys are required to act together for all decisions. As a result, if any one Attorney loses capacity, passes away or renounces their role, the document would cease to be effective for all remaining Attorneys.
Another issue we often find is a simple misunderstanding of when replacement Attorneys can exercise their powers. They are not permitted to step in unless your original Attorney(s) is/are permanently unable to act. A replacement Attorney therefore does not step in where an original Attorney is on holiday, for example.
These are just some of the issues which need to be fully discussed and explored to ensure that you have provisions in place to protect you if the document needs to be used.
Further, in a recent analysis, the Office of the Public Guardian (“OPG”), which is responsible for the registration of Powers of Attorney, reported that 1 in 5 LPAs contained errors. When LPAs are submitted with errors, or unworkable details, the OPG will return the document for correction, which could include having it re-signed by all parties involved. This can cause unnecessary delays and could result in a second payment of the registration fee, if documents are not returned swiftly to the OPG.
There are also issues which may not be flagged immediately on registration, which could cause a problem later down the line. Of particular importance is the drafting of the guidance and instruction sections of the LPA. These sections allow the LPA to reflect your specific wishes for its use and can enable the document to be tailored to your needs. If not properly drafted, you could find that your wishes are misinterpreted, un-workable and cut from the LPA or that they simply go too far to restrict the powers of your Attorneys. As a result, you could find that your documents are not fit for purpose.
Tollers can relieve you of the burden and the stress of what can prove to be an overwhelming process. We can take care of the whole process from start to finish for a fixed fee so that you can have total peace of mind knowing that if/when the time comes, your documents will function as you intended.
Our team are continuing to accept new instructions and to process applications for Lasting Powers of Attorney during the Coronavirus restrictions. For more information… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and the team will be happy to assist you. Meet our team here: Our Wills, Trusts and Estates Team