Setting Up Lasting Powers of Attorneys, Proves Complex During the Pandemic

There has been, perhaps predicatively, a rush for people, including elderly people, to bring their affairs up to date in view of the current Covid 19 crisis.

Elderly people are struggling to make plans to protect their finances as social distancing recommendations, remain in place for those most at risk from Corona Virus.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal arrangement, which allows people to appoint someone to manage their financial affairs on their behalf.

It has been our policy for sometime that everybody should have an LPA in place, but particularly now that the pandemic is now upon us, it maybe essential to have an LPA in place, but the pandemic has made it complicated in setting one up.

It is really difficult to complete LPA’s during the lockdown, as the execution process is more complex than say, drawing up a will. To execute a will, you just need two witnesses, but for an LPA you could need as many as five signatures.

Our experience is that many clients want an LPA in place, but cannot leave their houses to get the LPA couriered to other signatories.

There are two types of LPA one covering Property and Financial Affairs, and one for Health and Welfare. When used correctly, an LPA can assure that the interests of vulnerable people are safeguarded.

Without a Property and Financial Affairs LPA, a person’s financial affairs cannot be dealt with until an Order has been obtained from the Court of Protection. It usually takes the Court at least 9 months, (but in our experience considerably longer now owing to the closure of the Courts) to issue such orders the processes are expensive and time consuming.

Medical treatment for Covid 19, such as being on a ventilator can incapacitate people temporarily or permanently. If a person who has gone into hospital with Covid 19 does not have an LPA, and looses capacity, their loved ones may experience long delays, unnecessary stress and expense in applying to the Court of Protection, to access their finances.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, there has been a surge in the interest of LPA’s since lockdown began, driven by desire by individuals to get their financial affairs in order.

Due to the fast acting nature of the Corona virus, people are looking to put arrangements in place now, if they do become seriously ill, their capacity to make decisions could be impaired within a matter of days.

In spite of the problems of organising multiple witnesses during the pandemic, it has still been possible to coordinate the execution, while remaining social distancing rules.

By law LPA’s have to be signed first by the donor, in front of one witness. They then have to be completed by a certificate provider, who will confirm that they are happy they have understood the document they have signed. After this, the people who have been asked to be attorneys have to sign, and have their signatures witnessed.

We have tried to initiate the process with clients via phone or video link. We will prepare the LPA, and send it out to client by post for signature.

It is then registered at The Office of the Public Guardians, which takes at least 8 weeks in normal times, but again currently subject to considerable delays.

As a result, banks are receiving more requests for third party mandate accounts, where a person grants an ordinary Power of Attorney to another over their bank account.

A third party mandate can be helpful where, for example, people are stranded abroad or who are shielding, but still have mental capacity. Unlike an LPA, however the ordinary Power of Attorney will stop working when the donor looses mental capacity. This is often precisely when many people would want the Power of Attorney to take affect.

If you require help in connection with any of these matters, please do not hesitate to contact us.