The risks and benefits of a Lasting Power of Attorney
A retired senior judge at the Court of Protection has published a book on powers of attorney. The publication has hit the headlines due to the grave concerns the ex-judge has expressed about Lasting Powers of Attorney and the significant potential for financial abuse of vulnerable people.
According to press reports, the judge suggests that the Ministry of Justice is being “disingenuous” in actively (some would say aggressively) promoting the Lasting Power of Attorney as the best way to deal with the administration of the financial affairs of a person lacking mental capacity and that such documents can be prepared online without the need for any legal advice. He states that allowing the process of deputyship, with the additional level of supervision by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) that it brings, would be safer and more appropriate in some cases.
It cannot be denied that there have been some very unfortunate cases where financial abuse has occurred and vulnerable people have lost significant sums of money. We encourage all clients to make a lasting power of attorney (for finance and for health matters), regardless of their age or state of health. None of us know when mental incapacity may strike. It may be as a result of an accident or sudden illness and not only as a result of the illnesses more common in old age. A valid Lasting Power of Attorney would for most people be a preferable alternative to a deputyship supervised by the OPG, given that the latter is often a more expensive and cumbersome process.
However, a Lasting Power of Attorney should not be a document that is casually completed online much as one might complete a grocery order. By completing a finance LPA you are giving someone full rein to step into your shoes and do everything with your money and property that you could do yourself.
When we are asked to prepare a Lasting Power of Attorney for a client, we fully explain the form and effect of the document and just what it can and cannot do. The most important decision is who you appoint as your attorneys. As lawyers we are trained to spot potential issues and risks of abuse. Where worries arise we will explore and resolve those concerns before the LPA is signed.
On many occasions, clients have raised a question along the lines of, “What if my attorneys sell my house and run off with the money?” Our response is always exactly the same, which is, “If you think for one second that this could possibly happen, you are picking the wrong people to act as attorneys.”
A Lasting Power of Attorney casually prepared without proper legal advice and put in the wrong hands is potentially catastrophic. Our lawyers are highly experienced and will be able to offer you guidance on the best way to organise your affairs and minimise the risk of financial abuse.
To discuss your requirements for a Lasting Power of Attorney call our FREE helpline on 0333 888 0404 or email us at [email protected]