A recent report published by a coalition of organisations led by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) warns that a Government online tool to create Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA), and other DIY legal tools without seeking professional legal advice, comes with severe repercussions.

An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows you to appoint another person/people to act on your behalf in case you cannot make certain decisions in your lifetime as a result of losing mental capacity, accident, illness or old age. They are just as important as Wills and relevant to all adults.

In May 2014, the Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched its online LPA tool that claimed to allow anyone to create an LPA without the need for professional legal advice.

The new report led by SFE warns that anyone creating an LPA without taking specialist legal advice faces a significantly higher risk of being left with an ineffective legal document, incurring additional application fees, and even becoming a victim of fraud or coercion.

The report also raises concerns around the potential of a completely digital system proposed by the OPG, whereby ‘wet signatures’ – the physical signing of the document – would no longer be required.

As part of the report, a study was carried out to test the LPA tool and other DIY legal methods. The study revealed that

  • some of the forms did not accurately express the way in which participants would want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future
  • documents made using DIY methods were more likely to contain elementary mistakes, rendering them ineffective and requiring additional application fees
  • following consultation with a lawyer, most participants made significant changes to the permissions of their documents regarding how and by whom their affairs were managed.

The number of LPAs being registered has increased steadily since the launch of the online tool, with over half a million registered in 2015/16 alone. The OPG is actively trying to convince more people to apply for LPAs online which has resulted in over 1,000 calls to its contact centre every day.

An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have and granting someone this sort of authority over your affairs is a big responsibility. Anyone considering an LPA should seek expert legal advice and consider all the options to safeguard themselves for the future.

Download the report ‘The Real Cost of DIY LPAs’.