Power of attorney usage continues to rise
The number of people signing over financial control has continued to rise in 2020, with more than 200,000 powers of attorney submitted in the first quarter of the year.
Data from the Ministry of Justice showed 239,647 powers of attorney were received in January to March 2020 — up 5 per cent from the same quarter last year.
Almost all the applications were for lasting powers of attorney (99 per cent) while enduring powers of attorney made up the other 1 per cent.
According to the MOJ, the rate of increase in powers of attorney became sharper in 2015 when there was more publicity around the agreements and the government introduced online forms, making the process more simple and faster to use.
Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter, said: “LPA applications have become progressively more popular over the last decade, and we could reach close to a million new applications per year at the current rate.
“An LPA gives people peace of mind. This can be really important as individuals may experience distress and even family conflict if they’re trying to make complex choices about their financial and health needs at a time when they are grappling with the deterioration of their mental faculties.”
Ms Griffin said it was possible the coronavirus crisis may have curtailed the number of people applying for a LPA in Q2 of 2020 given the requirements around wet signatures being hard to meet due to social distancing rules.
She added: “If there is a decline as a result, hopefully it should only be temporary.”
What is a lasting power of attorney?
A lasting power of attorney allows someone, while they still have full mental capacity, to nominate a trusted friend or relative to make decisions on their behalf in cases of lost capacity.
Financial and property LPAs can include paying bills and handling financial decisions, while control over medical decisions and potential life-sustaining treatments sits under health and welfare LPAs.
The Office of Public Guardian, the government office which manages LPAs, said it wanted to become an important safeguarding partner that protected people who lacked mental capacity and had nominated an LPA.
In a new strategy announced in April 2019, the office said part of its new strategy to protect such people would include working more closely with safeguarding partners, such as adult social services and the NHS, to help them understand the OPG’s role more and look for ways to work together more successfully.
Although generally seen as a welcome trend, the increased number of LPAs comes with an increased amount of misuse.
In October data showed the Office of Public Guardian made 721 applications to the Court of Protection to remove or censure LPAs in 2018/19 — 55 per cent more than the previous year and a record high.
The findings also showed this figure had doubled over the past two years and that making improper gifts and not acting in a vulnerable person’s best interests were the two main reasons for having attorneys censured and removed.
There have since been calls to reform the system after concerns were raised LPAs failed to provide support for vulnerable customers.