Investigations into the actions of attorneys and deputies appointed under the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) procedure soared by more than 45% in the past year, figures have revealed.
According to figures from the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) 1,729 investigations into the actions of attorneys and deputies were carried out in the 2017/2018 financial year – up from 1,199 the previous year. The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is a part of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) responsible for administering LPA’s.
The figures were published after a FOI request by pensions and investment firm Royal London. The company had noted a rise in ‘DIY and online submissions’ for LPA’s, potentially leaving people at risk of attorneys making mistakes or, ‘in the worst cases, abuse’. Royal London has called for more information and education on what duties and powers individuals can and cannot do under a power of attorney.
Helen Morrissey, personal finance specialist at Royal London, says: “When done properly, the attorney fulfils a vital role in safeguarding the interests of the person they are acting for. However, the sheer number of investigations into the actions of attorneys is concerning and action needs to be taken to curb poor practice.”
She adds: “While there have been instances where people appointed as attorneys have used their position to steal money from the person they are acting for, there are also instances where the attorney has unwittingly stepped beyond the boundaries of their responsibilities or have neglected to keep up to date records explaining what they have done and why. People taking on these responsibilities need clearer guidance on what they can and cannot do.”
While many mistakes may be innocent, the Office for the Public Guardian has the power to suspend attorneys and deputies if it suspects foul play. In the most serious cases attorneys have been jailed for their actions.
LPA agreements allow ‘attorneys’ – often a person known to the individual setting up the LPA (the ‘donor’), to manage their health & welfare and property & financial affairs should they lose the mental capacity to do it themselves. If an LPA is not agreed by the time a person loses mental capacity, deputies are appointed by the Court of Protection, which is usually an expensive and lengthy process.
Creating a LPA without expert legal advice could result in thousands of pounds of costs later down the line to rectify mistakes and leave people susceptible to financial abuse. Involving a legal expert in the process of creating and registering an LPA ensures that the donor’s best interests have been accounted for. It also ensures that a donor has considered all options and if necessary, put in protection clauses in the LPA. This specialist approach can minimise bad practice and improve desired outcomes for those individuals at risk from incapacity in the future.