The internet has changed the way we work and act in so many ways, including the opportunity to freely obtain information on legal issues. As always however it pays to be wary of the degree to which information or advice on the web is accurate, up to date, or even appropriate to your particular circumstances .
The Government has been actively encouraging the public to prepare their own legal documents without professional help by placing some documents on-line for free. However, this gives rise to some risks and concerns especially for important documents such as Lasting Powers of Attorney.
Lasting Powers of Attorney allow you to choose someone to help you when you cannot make decisions about your finances and your health and welfare. Whilst these entrust significant power and authority in whomever you appoint as your attorney there is actually very little scrutiny of, or checks on, those persons appointed to make often major decisions on your behalf.
Recent articles in the national press have reflected a significant increase in investigations by the Office of the Public Guardian into cases of Attorneys abusing their power for their own ends often at the expense of the very person they are supposed to be protecting.
In October 2007, the Government introduced reforms to Powers of Attorney. It was intended that the reforms (which included renaming them as Lasting Powers of Attorney) would provide more security for those giving away control of their affairs. Under the revised application process there is a requirement for a “Certificate Provider” to confirm that the person granting the power of attorney to another understands what this means and that no fraud or undue pressure had been applied to induce them to grant the power of attorney.
Unfortunately, the protection provided by the new “Certificate Provider” was significantly diluted by the Government’s decision to allow anyone whom the proposed attorney has known for at least 2 years to sign the “Certificate”. “Anyone” literally means anyone you have known for at least 2 years, including the milkman (if you still have one). It can also mean someone closely allied to the Attorney who is to take over your decisions.
Once a financial Lasting Power of Attorney is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, the Attorney can have complete freedom over your finances. There are no checks over what the Attorney is doing on your behalf, unless and until someone reports any concerns to the Office of the Public Guardian, which may be too late if your money has been misused.
If the forms are free to download without legal help, why use a Solicitor? Our team of solicitors can guide you through the forms and ensure that the Lasting Powers of Attorney is correctly completed so they can be used without delay. If appropriate, we can also take steps to ensure that the actions of an Attorney are checked to ensure no abuse is taking place and that your Attorney acts within the law.
Many clients only want their Attorneys to help if and when they lose capacity or when they no longer wish to deal with their financial affairs. We provide free storage of your Lasting Powers of Attorney and prepare clear documentation setting out when your Attorneys can access these powerful documents and start to make decisions for you.
Having a professionally made and stored Lasting Power of Attorney can ensure your future decisions are in safe hands.
If you wish to find out more about Lasting Powers of Attorney please contact Jonathan Jacobs on 01252 316316.