Urgent warning about Government’s ‘risky’ online legal tool for creating Lasting Power of Attorneys

A new report and press release outlines the results of a study into the risks and hidden costs of DIY Lasting Powers of Attorneys, as opposed to choosing a specialist solicitor.

  • LPA tool leaving people at risk of financial abuse and fraud
  • Coalition of organisations including Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), Action on Elder Abuse, Anchor, Contact the Elderly and SOLLA are backing new report

QS Rose & Rose have joined a number of organisations representing older and vulnerable people to raise serious concerns around the Government’s online tool for creating Lasting Powers of Attorneys (LPAs). 

An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.

In May 2014, the Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched its online LPA tool, which it claims allows people to create the documents without the need for professional advice from a solicitor.

But the new report, published by a coalition of organisations led by SFE, warns that anyone creating an LPA without taking specialist legal advice faces a significantly higher risk of being left with an ineffective legal document, incurring additional application fees, and even becoming a victim of fraud or coercion. 

The report also raises concerns around the potential of a completely digital system proposed by the OPG, whereby ‘wet signatures’ – the physical signing of the document – would no longer be required. 

Sally-Ann Joseph is a Full Accredited member of SFE, and said: “The prospect of being able to submit an LPA application entirely digitally is extremely concerning, and raises some serious questions around the potential for fraud and financial abuse.”

During a study conducted for the report, participants were invited to create LPAs using the OPG’s online tool and other ‘DIY’ methods. The study revealed that:

  • Some of the forms did not accurately express the way in which participants would want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future
  • Documents made using DIY methods were more likely to contain elementary mistakes, rendering them ineffective and requiring additional application fees
  • Following consultation with a solicitor, most participants made significant changes to the permissions of their documents regarding how and by whom their affairs were managed

June McSparron, a 75-year-old who participated in the study, said: “You’re exposing yourself to a lot of risk by filling this form in on your own. There are so many bits that you can get wrong, and you can easily be pressured into making choices that you’re not entirely comfortable with.”

The number of LPAs being registered has increased steadily since the launch of the online tool, with over half a million registered in 2015/16 alone. The OPG is actively trying to convince more people to apply for LPAs online, having set a target for the service to comprise 30% of all applications from April 2016 to March 2017. In its latest Annual Report, the OPG even admits it is willing to take ‘risks’ in striking a balance between ‘empowering and safeguarding’.

With the OPG already receiving over 1,000 calls to its contact centre every day, the organisations behind the campaign say the Government body is potentially exposing people to unacceptable levels of risk and in doing so may be compromising its ability to safeguard those who are most vulnerable. 

Sally-Ann Joseph said: “An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have, because it allows you to pass potentially life-changing decisions about your affairs on to a third party. 

“It’s absolutely right that people should be planning ahead for the future with LPAs, but granting someone this sort of authority over your affairs is an extremely big responsibility for all parties involved. This is a specialist area of the law, and we recommend that anyone considering an LPA goes to a legal expert to ensure they get the right advice, consider all the options, and safeguard themselves for the future.”

To contact Sally-Ann Joseph for more information and help please call 0208 9747490 or email sj@roselegal.co.uk 

To download the report ‘The Real Cost of DIY LPAs’ go to: http://www.sfe.legal 

Glossary

SFE

SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) is an independent, national organisation of over 1,500 lawyers, such as solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives, who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers. 

The main areas of law members cover are:

  • Powers of Attorney
  • Making a Will
  • Living Wills
  • Tax planning
  • Asset preservation
  • Trusts
  • Probate
  • Paying for care
  • NHS Continuing Care Funding
  • Will disputes
  • Court of Protection
  • Elder abuse

In order to be a fully accredited member, lawyers must have a minimum of three years’ experience advising in areas of older client law and have completed the Older Client Care in Practice Award – a qualification which demonstrates the specialist client care skills that enable lawyers to advise and support older and vulnerable clients. 

Members are also required to continuously update their knowledge with training and produce an annual statement of competence, which ensures they maintain their expertise.

Clients of SFE members can also be reassured by the SFE code of practice and safety of redress through the members’ regulatory bodies, should something go wrong.  

For more information about SFE or our members, please visit www.sfe.legal or call us on 0844 567 6173 to find an SFE member near you.

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)

An LPA is a legal document that allows a person to appoint someone to manage their affairs, such as their property and finances or their health and care, if they become too ill to do so themselves due to an accident or illness like dementia. 

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG)

The OPG is an executive agency, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, to protect people in England and Wales who may not have the mental capacity to make certain decisions for themselves, such as about their health and finance. All LPAs are registered by the OPG. In May 2014, the OPG launched its online LPA tool which it claims allows people to create the documents without the need for professional advice from a solicitor. 

The Study

Participants from a range of backgrounds, all of whom had previously been considering creating an LPA, were asked to complete an LPA using either an ‘off-the-shelf’ kit or the OPG’s online service. The resulting documents were analysed by legal professionals to identify any issues. Participants then received a consultation with a qualified SFE solicitor, and were asked to compare this experience with that of using a DIY method. The study took place in July 2016. 

The off-the-shelf kit used in the study was the ‘Power of Attorney’ kit from Law Pack, a private publishing company. 

Support

SFE’s report is supported by a number of organisations which represent and provide services for older and vulnerable people:

  • Action on Elder Abuse – Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) is a specialist organisation that focuses exclusively on the issue of elder abuse. Established in 1993 by a group of practitioners from health and social care, AEA addresses abuse within people’s own homes (whether by family, friends or paid staff), within sheltered housing, and within care homes and hospitals. To find out more go to: http://elderabuse.org.uk 
  • Anchor – With almost 50 years of experience, Anchor is England's largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for older people. Anchor has more than 100 care homes throughout England, offering a range of residential care and dementia care, enabling older people to get the best out of life. To find out more got to: http://www.anchor.org.uk 
  • Contact the Elderly – Contact the Elderly is the only national charity solely dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people. Supported by a network of volunteers, the charity organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people, aged 75 and over, who live alone. To find our more got to: http://www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk 

 

SOLLA

SOLLA (The Society of Later Life Advisers) was founded in 2008 as a not-for-profit organisation, to meet the need of consumers, advisers and those who provide financial products and services to the later life market. Its aim is to ensure that people are better informed about the financial issues of later life and can find a fully accredited adviser quickly and easily. To find out more got to: http://societyoflaterlifeadvisers.co.uk

Your details

Please note we are unable to offer legal aid

Message

Fields marked with a * must be completed.

  • We engaged Rose and Rose to recover a bad debt. Their service was excellent and we recovered the full amount plus costs with minimal effort. I have no hesitation in recommending their services and we will certainly use them in the future.
  • Trustworthy and efficient service from this team of friendly and professional solicitors. I would recommend Rose and Rose.
  • Rose and Rose Kingston provided extensive support to me whilst selling my property. We had a number of challenges to overcome but at no point did I feel I did not know what was happening in the process. They are extremely helpful, supportive and explained everything to me in simple terms. In future I will only recommend and use Rose and Rose.
  • We have recommended the services of Rose and Rose many times to either our clients selling properties or their buyers. Every time we have a transaction where they are involved it gives us great reassurance that the deal will be done efficiently, that updates are always available and that the parties involved have a clear understanding of the transaction. Those that we have referred to Rose and Rose have always been extremely happy with the service and have achieved the right end result.
  • Rose and Rose are now officially my favourite and most helpful solicitor.
  • Rose and Rose were exceptional to deal with. Instructed by a buyer of ours they were nothing but helpful and pleasant throughout the transaction, always at the end of the telephone if needed, and as a result of their obvious expertise the sale went through effortlessly. I can highly recommend them.
  • Both my sister and I used Rose and Rose for our conveyancing. We were extremely happy with the service provided, it was professional, friendly and expedient. I would definitely use Rose and Rose in the future.
  • Rose and Rose provided an excellent service when it came to selling our property and buying another. We were able to contact them when needed and we found them approachable and efficient. We would have no hesitation in recommending this solicitor.
  • I have no hesitation in recommending Rose and Rose who acted for me in the sale and purchase of my home.
  • Rose and Rose are the best solicitors that I have dealt with, and the only one I will be dealing with from now on. The professional approach and service they offer is second to none. Their ability to always keep you informed with what is going on has been extremely helpful and given me peace of mind.
  • Rose and Rose recently handled the conveyancing for the sale of our property and we were extremely impressed with the level of service we received. The overall process was quick and efficient. Although these matters can be extremely stressful the staff involved were friendly, thoughtful and approachable yet totally professional throughout. This in effect enabled the sale to proceed relatively smoothly. I would therefore not hesitate to employ the services of Rose and Rose in the future. Robert P
  • Rose and Rose have helped me with conveyancing but also with my divorce and not only have they done a good job, they have ensured my costs have been contained as much as possible. They offer an exceptionally good service and explain the law in plain English, they are very friendly and easy to deal with.
  • Great, helpful advice and support from people who understand what you want and deliver in a straightforward manner in plain English. I highly recommend Rose and Rose Solicitors in Kingston.
  • I have used Rose and Rose Solicitors on a number of occasions and have always found them to be extremely friendly and helpful. They always provide excellent advice and do so in a cost effective manner whilst maintaining an extremely personal service and they really seem to care about you. I would have no problem in recommending their services to any of my friends, family and clients.
  • Rose & Rose Solicitors have a surprisingly refreshing approach to the Law. Whilst obviously highly committed and professional they are relaxed, friendly and approachable making all your dealings with them, in often very difficult circumstances, as stress free as possible. Highly recommend. Rose & Rose is a well rounded solicitors' firm, they have managed to help us through our business legal requirements with their fast, reliable and cost effective service. They have met our demand and need every time. Rose & Rose in Kingston successfully assisted my girlfriend's business in clawing back a large chunk of bad debt that a company were refusing to pay. I was so impressed with the simplicity and ease in which they dealt with the situation that I will use Rose & Rose Solicitors to represent all my own company's legal requirements including employment contracts, conveyancing, dispute resolution, etc. Rose and Rose provide their considerable expertise in a relaxed, friendly and unstuffy way. They have assisted my company and my clients and I would not hesitate to recommend them.
  • We have been involved in a number of sales where Rose and Rose have represented either the buyer or seller and on every occasion they have been a pleasure to deal with. The team make themselves very available and always respond to messages and emails quickly and always seem to be in command of a situation. This is so important to us as we need to keep our customers up to speed at all times. We aspire to delivering excellent service to our customers and they certainly help a great deal in this respect. Our customers who have used Rose and Rose have all been complimentary about the service they have received and how easy everyone there is to deal with.