Setfords lawyer Christopher Walton is warning against proposals to make applications for lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) fully digital, over fears it could increase the risk of fraud.
Christopher, a specialist advising on complex issues brought about by death and mental incapacity, also says vulnerable and elderly people are often unable to access online services, and shifting LPAs online could put them at a disadvantage.
An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about their finances and property on their behalf. Christopher has joined the campaign led by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), an independent organisation of lawyers who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people.
Alongside SFE, Christopher is warning that by removing the need for a physical ‘wet signature’ the changes could lead to a drastic increase in cases of financial abuse. Christopher says:
“Elderly people are already ‘digitally discriminated’ against by shifting services online when many are not capable of accessing them. Removing wet signatures makes it easier for fraudsters (often family members, carers or neighbours) to get away with their crimes. It should not be easy to make a lasting power of attorney – it is a serious decision with very serious implications.”
He continued, “LPAs are extremely powerful and complex documents, and the prospect of being able to take control of someone else’s bank account and even their property with the few clicks of a button is frankly reckless.”
Advice for those considering an LPA
A Full Accredited Member of Solicitors for the Elderly, Christopher has offered advice to those considering an LPA:
- Get proper advice. Use a specialist solicitor who deals with powers of attorney – search the SFE database or call SFE to find a full accredited member.
- Think about whether you really trust your prospective attorneys. Do they get on? Can they work together? Are you creating an impractical situation?
- Think about what you want your attorneys to do for you. Do they know your wishes and feelings? How much power do you want them to have?