Exciting news for the legal sector as the UK Government moves forward with plans to modernise the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) system, paving the way for a much-needed digital solution. The Powers of Attorney Bill, currently making its way through the legislative process, aims to address the challenges posed by the existing paper-based system and revolutionise the way LPAs are created and registered.
LPAs are vital legal documents that enable individuals to grant decision-making powers to trusted individuals in the event of their mental incapacity. Since 2021, the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) have been collaborating to modernise the LPA system, recognising the complexities and inefficiencies of the current paper-based process.
In July 2021, the government launched a consultation to gather insights and feedback on modernisation proposals. The response, published in May 2022, outlined the government’s commitment to introducing primary legislation to amend the LPA process. The Powers of Attorney Bill, introduced by Stephen Metcalfe MP in June 2022, enjoys government support and aims to implement the proposed measures.
The bill introduces significant changes to the existing LPA process, including provisions to set identity verification requirements, accept new forms of evidence for LPAs, recognise electronic forms of registered LPAs as evidence, and allow chartered legal executives to certify copies of LPAs. These changes mark a major step forward in simplifying the LPA creation process, enhancing user experience, and providing increased protection against abuse.
With cross-party support received during its passage through the House of Commons, the Powers of Attorney Bill is scheduled for its second reading in the House of Lords on 16 June 2023. This significant milestone highlights the government’s commitment to bringing the LPA system into the digital age and revolutionsing how individuals plan for their future.
“This development represents a major leap forward for the legal sector,” said Rudi Kesic, CEO at Verify 365. “The transition from a paper-based system to a digital solution for LPAs is long overdue. It will streamline processes, reduce complexities, and provide individuals with a more efficient and user-friendly experience while safeguarding their interests.”
The UK Government’s progress towards a digital solution for LPAs marks an exciting development for the legal sector, as individuals can look forward to a modern and accessible system that meets their evolving needs.
One key provision is the introduction of identity verification requirements for registering LPAs.
The bill’s schedule includes amendments to the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) regarding the registration of LPAs. It proposes that only the donor, not attorneys, can be the applicant for registering an LPA. The requirement for an application fee would be removed, and incomplete applications could be submitted, with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) ensuring their completion. The responsibility for notifying named persons of LPA registration would shift from the applicant to the OPG. The bill also empowers the OPG to dispense with the notification requirement in special circumstances at the donor’s request.
To enhance security, the bill introduces identification verification requirements. Regulations would be permitted to set out how the OPG verifies the identity of individuals involved in the LPA process, including the donor, certificate provider, attorneys, and replacement attorneys. If the ID requirements are not met, the OPG would be prohibited from registering the LPA, and the Court of Protection would determine its eligibility for registration. The bill also allows third parties to object to LPA registration, in addition to attorneys and named persons.
Regarding evidence of LPA registration, the bill clarifies that an “office copy” of a registered LPA would remain valid for LPAs registered before the bill’s commencement. It also enables electronic forms of LPA registration to be used as evidence, with regulations specifying acceptable OPG documents. However, the bill ensures that a paper alternative can be used as evidence if electronic records are inaccessible.
Furthermore, the bill allows chartered legal executives authorised by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives to certify copies of powers of attorney, expanding the list of authorised certifiers.
The bill’s provisions have received positive reactions from the charity and legal sectors. Age UK broadly welcomed the measures and the retention of a paper-based channel alongside the digital system. They suggested additional safeguards, such as requiring attorneys to prove their identity during the application process. The Law Society expressed support for the bill’s aim to modernise the LPA system but noted disappointment in the lack of explicit consideration of the donor’s capacity in the certification process.