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Concerns over delays to register lasting powers of attorneys

We report on a troubling development which has seen lasting power of attorneys take double the recommended time to register.

The average time to register a lasting power of attorney (‘LPA’) is approximately 82 days, according to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice) Tom Pursglove. This is just over double the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) target to register LPAs in 40 days. This is obviously concerning for those seeking to prepare and register LPAs.

What is a lasting power of attorney?

An LPA is a legal document that allows an individual (the ‘donor’) to appoint one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to help them make decisions or to make decisions on their behalf. It is a document that allows people to have more control over what happens to them if they have an accident or become ill and cannot make decisions (often when the individual lacks mental capacity).

Crucially, an LPA can only be made when a person has capacity. An LPA cannot be made once the individual has lost capacity. It is too late.

There are two types of LPA:

  • lasting power of attorney for health and welfare — this can be used to give the attorney the power to make decisions about medical care, life sustaining treatment, when to move into a care home etc.
  • lasting power of attorney for property and finances — this can be used to give the attorney power to manage the donor’s bank account, benefits and bills, as well as assisting in the management of the donor’s property.

Why is longer registration time a problem?

An extra few months may not sound like too long to wait for an LPA to be registered.

However, for those registering LPAs urgently due to a decline in health, it may be that these additional delays cause a significant problem.

Until an LPA is registered, an attorney cannot use it. This means that even if the document is prepared and signed and sent to the OPG to register, if the donor loses capacity prior to registration taking place, it cannot be used.

This may mean, for example, that money in the donor’s bank cannot be accessed to pay routine bills, or doctors may not consider the attorney’s opinion in treatment plans etc. The delays can clearly cause problems when a vulnerable person requires an LPA to quickly assist them with their affairs. They are currently in a position where they will have to wait even longer to gain the support they need.

What can be done?

Unfortunately, there is no fast-track option — it is not possible to expedite a request to register an LPA.

The best option is to register LPAs in advance, well before they might be needed. An LPA may seem like something that will never be needed and, hopefully, this is the case for many. However, once it is needed, it can be too late to address.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues discussed, please contact our power of attorney lawyers.

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