‘DIY’ Lasting Powers of Attorney – why take the risk?

Emsleys Solicitors’ Helen Gott warns about the risks of creating a ‘DIY’ Lasting Power of Attorney, following the launch of Solicitors for the Elderly’s campaign on 15 November.

In November, Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) launched a campaign to inform consumers about the risks of creating a ‘DIY’ Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) without first taking legal advice. It highlights the potential issues of DIY legal forms, such as the potential for fraud, coercion and financial abuse, and begs the question: are consumers inadvertently gambling with their future when using online applications for LPAs?

An LPA is a legal document that enables a person to nominate someone to manage their financial affairs if they become unable to do so themselves. An LPA becomes operative if, for example, a person loses the mental capacity to look after their affairs, either through an accident or an illness such as dementia.

In May 2014, the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched an online tool allowing people to create an LPA themselves, without the need for a solicitor. The introduction of a fully digital application has the perceived benefit of reducing the cost of making an LPA.

Since the online service was introduced, there has been a 35% rise in the number of LPAs being registered in 2015/16. Although an increase in people creating LPAs could, at a first glance, be considered positive – given our ageing population – the issues surrounding DIY legal forms somewhat counter this: the SFE conducted a study on the OPG’s digital tool and the results are somewhat alarming.

The study raised a number of questions and potential risks associated with creating legal documents online without the assistance of a legal professional. For instance, there is the opportunity for fraud and coercion to take place, either by a person being forced into creating an LPA, or by an LPA being made in someone’s name without their consent.

Furthermore, without the aid of a solicitor, the final document may not be legally robust, or may not properly outline an applicant’s wishes. For example, the person creating the LPA may end up signing an application form they do not understand if they do not have a legal professional guiding them through the process.

In addition to this, if an application is completed incorrectly, it may need to be resubmitted, which could incur further costs and therefore negate the perceived benefit of digital LPA applications being a cheaper alternative.

Based on this, then, it is clear that using a solicitor that has been accredited by the SFE is the best way to guarantee that an individual understands the process and implications of making an LPA. Taking the advice of a legal professional also confirms that the application is correct and that it conveys the applicant’s wishes appropriately.

When it comes to planning for the future, why take risks?

To read the SFE’s report, visit http://www.sfe.legal/public/the-risks-of-diy-lpas.

For more information and advice on the issues outlined above, contact our Wills & Probate team on 0113 201 4900 for a free, initial consultation.

Helen Gott

Written by

Helen Gott

Director & Head of Wills & Probate

Helen is a solicitor, Director and Head of the Wills & Probate department at Emsleys Solicitors. Since qualifying in 2010, Helen has specialised exclusively in the area of Wills & Probate and is described as "very knowledgeable" in The Legal 500 2018-19. Helen is an expert in wills,...

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