Powers of attorney move one step closer to the digital age

The administration of lasting powers of attorney (LPA) is on its way to becoming fully online.

In an ideal world, you should have an LPA (or its Scottish or Northern Ireland equivalent) sitting beside your will. The absence of either can complicate matters considerably for your family. Without a will, the distribution of your estate defaults to the laws of intestacy, which may not match your (or your family’s) wishes. Similarly, if illness means that you cannot manage your own affairs, then in the absence of an appropriate LPA, the Court of Protection will be your family’s first port of call to make decisions on your behalf. Going to the Court can be an expensive and slow process. 

In England and Wales, the LPA process is dealt with by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). Over the years, technology has gradually crept into what has traditionally been a heavily paper-based system. You can now prepare an LPA for property and financial affairs and/or health and welfare matters online (https://www.lastingpowerofattorney.service.gov.uk/lpa/type). These LPAs are basic, government-drafted documents, but you may prefer to use a solicitor to include specific provisions that the standard issue version does not contain. 

However your LPA is prepared, it will need to be registered before it can be used. While in theory registration can be delayed until your attorney needs to act on your behalf, in practice it is best to register your LPA as soon as it has been completed. That involves signing the document and sending the paperwork to the OPG (with a fee of £82 per LPA). The OPG says that it takes “up to 20 weeks” to register an LPA, provided there are no mistakes in the application. 

The Powers of Attorney Act 2023, which received Royal Assent in September, paves the way for LPA registration to be completed online (as is currently possible in Scotland with powers of attorney). The paper option will also remain available. 

If you do not have an LPA, then do not let the passing of the Act be an excuse to carry on without one until the technology is in place. Even the Chief Executive of the OPG says “…it’s important to recognise that we’ve still got a long way to go.” You – and your family – could need an LPA before that journey is over. 

Footnote: In October, the Law Commission launched a consultation on allowing wills in England and Wales to be made and stored in electronic form. More information can be found here.