Concerns Over the Digitalisation of Lasting Powers of Attorney

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Digitalisation of lasting powers of attorney

*PRESS RELEASE*

David Sinclair, Chair of Solicitors for the Elderly warns changes to Powers of Attorney may leave older and vulnerable people at risk

  • Local solicitor, David Sinclair issues warning following FCA’s call to turn Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) fully digital
  • Proposals would remove the need for a physical ‘wet signature’
  • Solicitors say this could lead to a drastic increase in cases of financial abuse

Local solicitor David Sinclair has joined fellow members of Solicitors for the Elderly in warning against proposals to turn the LPA registration process fully digital. David is chair of the national organisation and his comments have been published in The Times and The Daily Express.

David is concerned because an LPA is a very powerful legal document. It allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to act on their behalf. As a result, allowing the Attorney to make important decisions surrounding their finances and property on their behalf. Under the current process, a ‘wet signature’ – the physical signing of the document – is required by individuals wishing to register an LPA. But in a paper released on Thursday, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) called for a fully digital system. This would therefore mean documents could be registered completely online.

David Sinclair said:-

“We are extremely concerned by the FCA’s push for fully digital Powers of Attorney. Although we welcome initiatives that make LPAs more accessible, the security of older and vulnerable people is paramount. Under the current system, the FCA’s vision of a secure, end-to-end digital LPA registration process is simply not possible.

“Removing the requirement of a wet signature has the potential to put thousands of people at risk of fraud and financial abuse. An LPA requires the understanding and consent of the donor. However, without the witnessing of a physical signature, what is to stop a family member or friend registering a document on someone else’s behalf, perhaps even without their knowledge?”

“LPAs are extremely powerful and complex documents. The prospect of being able to take control of someone’s finances with the few clicks of a button is frankly reckless.”

“On a local level here in Somerset this issue needs to be highlighted because we live in a county with a high population of older residents. Many of whom live in remote areas which can therefore leave them very vulnerable to abuse.”

Solicitors for the Elderly is an independent, national organisation of over 1,500 solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives. These professionals all provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people and their families. Last year, the organisation released a report raising concerns around the current online system for LPAs. The report claims the system already leaves older and vulnerable people open to abuse.

LPAs are processed by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), a public body under the Ministry of Justice. The OPG has previously considered changing the application process as part of a gradual move to take its processes online.

To find out more about Solicitors for the Elderly, go to: http://www.sfe.legal

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