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New digital service introduced for Lasting Powers of Attorney

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By Stuart Downey

What is the new ‘Use an LPA’ digital service?

A new ‘Use an LPA’ feature has quietly been introduced to the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) service offered by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG).

Historically, you had two options in how to put an LPA into effective use. You could provide the original to the third party – a bank or building society for a Property and Financial Affairs LPA, or perhaps to the GP or hospital for a Health and Welfare LPA. Providing the original is always a risk – that it is damaged, or worse, lost completely. Alternatively you could produce certified copies of the original.

When providing these documents, say at your local bank, there was often a lack of understanding about the document – who is/are the Attorney(s)? When can they act? What powers do the Attorney(s) have? Are their powers restricted in any way? More fundamentally, is the LPA even still valid or had it been revoked after registration?

The new service in place (initially at least) for all LPAs registered on or after the 17 July 2020, enables donors and Attorneys to provide third parties with a code (rather than the original or a certified copy of the document) that allows them to directly confirm the validity of the LPA with the OPG. It will also confirm who is entitled to act as an Attorney; whether they have additional powers; and whether any powers may have been restricted.

Given the issues faced by vulnerable people in light of current pandemic, it is a positive step, though not without teething problems.

Unfortunately, where someone has made their LPA bespoke (which accounts for 10% of registered LPAs) such as by altering the powers of the attorney (often by expanding their powers, but sometimes by restricting them) the OPG is not making these instructions available via their new service, and are actively telling third parties to request sight of the original or a certified copy of the LPA in any event.

Like all new services, it will take time to iron out the creases. We understand the OPG intends to look at adding LPAs registered prior to 17 July 2020 in due course, but this will be quite a task. Nevertheless, it is a welcome modernisation of this service, especially in the current circumstances. It should reduce abuse of LPAs and make them more user friendly for Attorneys.

While creating bespoke LPAs may, as a result of this new service, be seen as a barrier to simple and effective implementation of LPAs, we advise all clients to personalise these powerful documents to ensure they are as useful and reflective of their wishes as possible. The need to provide a certified copy of the document and the registration code should not create a desire to leave LPAs as impersonal documents and when preparing LPAs for clients our service includes providing two certified copies of each LPA on the completion of the registration process.

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