Co-op Legal Services, the UK’s largest regulated provider of wills, estate planning and probate services has launched a new digital lasting power of attorney (LPA) service meaning that users can secure this important legal documentation quickly and efficiently online and the donor can also include detailed guidance for their attorney on a range of issues which gives more protection to both the donor and attorney(s).
With a low fixed-fee price from just £120, it is a welcome and much needed innovation in the current cost of living crisis. The new launch comes as figures from the Ministry of Justice show that there was a worrying 26.5% fall in the amount of LPAs registered between 6 April 2020 and 5 April 2021, as lockdown rendered it harder for paper-based processes to be adhered to.
This means that thousands of people could potentially risk their loved ones being completely locked out of their financial and healthcare affairs indefinitely should they lose mental capacity – something that can happen to anyone, at any age.
The legal services provider is urging adults of all ages to put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney to protect themselves and to hold the importance of LPAs in the same regard as making a will.
For those who do lose capacity and don’t have LPA in place, loved ones have to apply to the court for a deputyship order to gain access to financial accounts which can take as long as six months to obtain and can be a very expensive process.
Figures from the Office of the Public Guardian show that as of 31 March 2021 it was supervising 57,777 deputyship orders, meaning there were almost 60,000 people who either didn’t realise that they could get LPA or did not think they’d need one, but did.
Whilst the Office of the Public Guardian does offer an LPA service, Co-op Legal Services digital product is for people who want legal support providing guidance to their attorneys on important decisions to be made on their behalf. Many people prefer to instruct professionals when making an LPA to ensure they’ve properly considered what instructions to give their attorney(s) on a number of important financial and health matters.
Importantly for people who have investments, a digital LPA from Co-op Legal Services includes guidance for their attorney in respect of funds to be held under discretionary management. It is an often-overlooked point that, if a person loses mental capacity, best practice is to ensure their attorneys are to allow this type of investment arrangement to continue through express authority given in the LPA.
Therefore, financial advisers should be checking whether those with an LPA already in place, have the necessary authority drafted in it. In an inflationary environment, ensuring that an attorney has scope to take financial advice is vital as costs of care rise, currency fluctuates and markets are increasingly volatile. Co-op Legal Services also points out that attorneys prefer an indication of the donor’s thinking in an LPA and feel more comfortable with explicit guidance.
The digital LPA from Co-op Legal Services is tailored to the needs of the individual via a simple, easy-to-follow digital journey accessible 24 hours a day. The legal documentation can be put in place in a matter of days, without the need to visit a solicitor’s office. The service also includes an identification and capacity assessment which is important in the event of a future challenge.
Caoilionn Hurley, managing director, Co-op Legal Services, said:
“Unfortunately many people don’t see just how important it is to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place and think that only people of a certain age lose their mental capacity. The pandemic has shown us how many normally fit and healthy people have been put into a coma or temporarily lost capacity which has placed enormous strain on their loved ones who may have been totally shut out of their financial affairs.
It is incredibly distressing for family members, not to mention costly, when they may be trying to carry out the wishes of their loved one only to be told that legally they have no authority to do so.
Traditionally, obtaining an LPA can be a lengthy and expensive process, but we’re committed to helping people access the benefits of legal services by making it as straight forward and affordable as possible. We have designed our new digital LPA service to be quick and efficient whilst ensuring that our clients have a thorough understanding of the implications of their LPA”.