By Lucy Thacker
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are important legal documents that dictate who can make decisions on your behalf relating to finances & property, or health & welfare, in the event you no longer have mental capacity to make those decisions. You can choose who your Attorneys are to make decisions for you and give them relevant instructions or preferences as to how they carry out those decisions. Read more about what LPAs are and how they work, in our previous blog here.
In 2017/18, the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) registered 759,976 LPAs (Source: Office of the Public Guardian, Annual Report and Accounts 2017/18). LPAs give a great amount of power to Attorneys as they are able to access your money, make decisions on where you live and the type of care you receive. You can even enable your Attorneys to make decisions on life-sustaining treatment.
Attorneys have a duty to act in your best interests, but unfortunately there is the risk of abuse by an Attorney, as is evidenced in the following cases:
a son who took £30,000 of his mother’s money and spent it on himself;
a son who sold his father’s home to pay off his own mortgage;
In 2017/18, there were 1,886 safeguarding referrals which were accepted for investigation by the Office of the Public Guardian, which was a 48.9% increase on the previous year.
This increase in safeguarding referrals may in part be attributable to do-it-yourself (DIY) LPAs, and by the introduction of online submissions by the Office of the Public Guardian with the result that more and more people can draft their own LPAs. This is a money saving method, however, the guidance circulated with these DIY and online LPAs is inferior to tailored advice from a solicitor on your specific circumstances.
Solicitors for the Elderly conducted a study, in which they compared participants’ experiences of using a DIY method (either an off-the-shelf kit or the OPG online service) with their experiences of using a specialist solicitor. The participants in the study all agreed that they would not feel comfortable submitting an application made using a DIY method without first discussing it with a solicitor. After receiving a consultation with a specialist solicitor, all participants said they felt more confident about their ability to make informed and appropriate choices, and most of them made significant changes to the decisions expressed in their LPAs.
To mitigate the risk of abuse, the best course of action is to use a professional to draft your LPA. A solicitor can discuss your various options, advise you on the best course of action and make sure your LPA is drafted how you want it. Although it is not a fool proof method to stop any safeguarding issues arising, it assures that the person making the LPA’s best interests have been considered and put in place any necessary protection.
If you suspect abuse or you have concerns about an Attorney, you can contact the Office of the Public Guardian by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 0115 934 2777. Otherwise, you can contact the individual’s local authority or, if they are in immediate danger, the police.
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