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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T V W Y

Private Client Law

In this monthly bulletin the Private Client team keep their referrers and contacts up to date with the latest legal and tax developments which also includes regular updates on Family law matters.

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Online LPAs - Plans Postponed

Wednesday 17th September 2014

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Private Client Law Bulletin - Issue 83

The Ministry of Justice has thankfully postponed controversial plans to introduce a fully online process for the creation and registration of Lasting Powers of Attorney in England and Wales. The plans were recently put on hold in the face of widespread opposition from professional bodies including the Law Society and STEP as well as organisations representing elderly and disabled people.

Due to the steadily rising demand for LPAs, since their introduction in 2007 and the long delays that applicants were experiencing, a new system for apply for Lasting Powers of Attorney was put into place.

The scheme, launched in June 2013, is a partially online system which aimed to address issues raised by applicants, including how easily mistakes could be made. The current system allows forms to be filled out online and checked immediately by the OPG software. Once the forms are verified as error free, applicants are required to print them out so that they can be signed by the donor and witness (as digital signatures are not sanctioned in English law).

In October 2013 the Ministry of Justice launched a public consultation in order to set out the changes in the law required if a fully online system was to be implemented. It was revealed that this would have involve either having to recognise digital signatures in English law or altering the status of powers of attorney so that they are no longer deeds that must be signed and witnessed.

This sparked intense debate and criticism because of the greater scope for fraud and financial abuse. There was additional concern that some elderly people without internet access or the relevant computer skills would be disadvantaged by the new scheme. Most responses insisted that the “wet signature” system, although not perfect, is still the best way of establishing the donor’s identity and intention and called for the retention of face-to-face contact for security, even though this may be less convenient.

Although these initial plans for complete digitalisation have been shelved, the Ministry of Justice has stated that it would, “build on the feedback received and work with key stakeholders to refine our proposal for a fully digital LPA and consult with the public when we have a fuller picture of how the digital tool will operate.”

The Government is clearly keen to have digital LPA’s but for now the protection offered by personal signatures and witnesses remains.

If you would like more information about LPAs or for help with any other private client law matter please contact our Private Client team.

 


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