The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) have launched a project to update the process of making and registering lasting powers of attorney (LPAs)
Initially they will hold a series of events and surveys that will lead to a formal consultation in spring 2021. 
A virtual round table event took place in November focussing on two specific areas. 

Safeguards for identity checks 

There is agreement that identity checking for people making LPAs should be improved and that this would strengthen safeguards. 
There have been significant concerns raised about identity fraud and theft, especially if someone has access to a health and welfare LPA and the person concerned is vulnerable or unable to express their wishes due to an illness or accident, for example. 
While online identity verification is considered reliable, many elderly people don’t have access to a computer or smartphone. It was also highlighted that any new online system would need to be thoroughly and securely piloted before it is implemented more widely. 

Strengthening the role of witnesses 

The process of obtaining witnesses to sign LPAs is an important step, giving someone time to discuss and consider the role of their attorney. 
It has been suggested that a digital signature for a witness might be acceptable, although the person making the LPA should still physically sign the document. The first survey on the subject found that nine out of 10 solicitors who responded in England and Wales agreed. 
Currently, the MoJ and OPG say that changes will only be made if they can provide the same level of protection as the current process or, preferably, enhance it. However, they have accepted that digital approvals and authorisations are being used more widely and that demand has increased during the coronavirus pandemic this year. 

Next steps to update the LPA process 

There will be further discussions about the application process, the roles of witnesses and solicitors, the part the OPG should play in the future, the objection period, and the speed of the process. 
Further consultation and engagement with professionals and experts are planned next year, to understand user needs and the challenges involved in updating the process to provide a safe, modern and more sustainable process for future LPAs. 
Making LPAs for your financial affairs and your care and wellbeing are important steps for everyone. If you would like to know more, please get in touch. 
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