Posted by James McNeile, Partner
Lasting Powers of Attorney: weapons of mass protection
I recently read an article in The Telegraph which focused on the negative issues surrounding the much misunderstood and much reported-on powers that attorneys have when acting under a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). The article reported that attorney disputes with banks are on the rise, and there has been a sharp increase in attorney related litigation.
This is true. However, so is the fact that more Lasting Powers of Attorneys are being made than ever before – the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) currently predicts there will be 380,000 Lasting Powers of Attorneys made in the year 2014/15, compared to just 85,000 in 2008/9. What is also true is that individuals are becoming richer at the same time that family life is becoming more complex; many elderly people are facing a loneliness epidemic as many live far from friends and family members. So surely it is no surprise that disputes are on the rise.
However, for every one dispute, there are many more, albeit unreported, stories of attorneys simply using their powers to help the elderly and vulnerable adults in their lives. LPAs protect and empower the vulnerable in our society and act as a significant safeguard against abuse. It must not be forgotten that attorneys are monitored by the OPG. On the rare occasion that the system does go wrong, the OPG will investigate the attorney in question and, if required, will work with the police and the Court of Protection to remove the attorney and take other steps as necessary to protect the donor.
In 2013/14, 4,893 safeguarding referrals were made to the OPG and 624 full investigations carried out. The OPG will risk assess all referrals within 48 hours and work with the police to make freezing orders where necessary.
In comparison, those that lose the ability to make financial decisions for themselves without having appointed an attorney leave themselves vulnerable to financial abuse and exploitation, not to mention lengthy and costly Court of Protection applications. If you have assets and don’t appoint an attorney under an LPA, a Deputy will need to be appointed. It is as simple as that. This usually takes 6 months and can easily cost £2,000-£3,000 in legal and court fees.
Rather than criticise the system, what is needed is increased awareness of LPAs, how quickly and cost-effectively they can be made and what duties attorneys are under once appointed. When considering making an LPA you should always look for specialist advice and use solicitors who are members of Solicitors for the Elderly, as they will go the extra mile to protect the interests of the elderly person concerned.
If you would like more information about Lasting Powers of Attorney or advice about setting one up call our team on 0800 923 2070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holly Miéville-Hawkins has become one of the youngest solicitors to be appointed to the Law Society’s Wills and Equity Committee. With just two years’ post-qualification experience, she is already making a name for herself as an expert in the field of Court of Protection work. She represents people who lack mental capacity as well as their families in court proceedings relating to their property and financial affairs.
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