Arken applauds the passage of the Powers of Attorney Bill as the first step to a digital revolution in the process for registering Lasting Powers of Attorney.
The current process is fraught with administrative difficulties with many pages of forms to be completed and signed in a prescriptive order. Arken has streamlined this process as far as possible with an innovative, simplified questionnaire, allowing maximum reuse of data to avoid rekeying, but even this does not help with the long delays faced when registering a form – currently up to twenty weeks, which can cause significant difficulties where an application to register has not been completed before the donor lost capacity.
Digitisation presents a welcome solution to the paper mountain and clerical delays. But it offers far more than that: a digital solution will be easier and more secure for people appointing attorneys on their behalf because:
- only a donor will be able to apply to register an LPA (currently an attorney can) – this keeps the donor in control of the powers they are giving. The donor will apply for registration at the point that they sign the document. This also means that the LPA will be ready to rely on immediately if the donor ever lost capacity;
- the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) will coordinate the collection of signatures from other parties to the document, relieving the administrative burden on the donor. It also enables the OPG to make sure that all of the relevant notices have been sent out and that there is the opportunity to object to the registration which is a key safeguard, creating additional protection against undue influence;
- donor identity verification will be built into the process, reducing fraud. The OPG will be able to conduct identity checks on individuals involved in making, or who are named in, the lasting power of attorney, as a condition of its registration. If the identity cannot be verified, the LPA must not be registered without a direction from the Court of Protection.
- objections can be made by third parties as well as people named in the application giving greater the Public Guardian greater opportunity to identify fraudulent or pressured applications.
The exact form of the LPA registration process is still being developed by the OPG with extensive consultation with practitioners and technology providers in this area. We welcome the opportunity to be involved in creating a more efficient and secure LPA registration process for donors and celebrate the adoption of technology to allow secure digital execution of official documents. We can only hope that a similar modernising zeal can be brought to bear on the archaic signature requirements of the Wills Act 1837.