Industry writes open letter to OPG over “failing” service and increasing delays

Industry writes open letter to OPG over “failing” service and increasing delays

A new industry body representing estate planners, the BEST Foundation, has organised and written an open letter to the OPG relating to problems within the service, particularly around delays to LPA registrations.

The BEST Foundation has written an open letter to the OPG on behalf of several industry practitioners to highlight problems within the service following reports of a “deteriorating” service which were highlighted in a recent LinkedIn post and discussion from Nicola Combe, Director, Morecambe Bay Wills and Estates which was reported last month in Today’s Wills and Probate.

The letter can be read in full below.

 

Dear Office of the Public Guardian

We are sending this email to various contacts that we have within the OPG in the hope that it will be passed to senior management as a matter of urgency.

To introduce myself, I am the Company Secretary at the BEST Foundation. The BEST Foundation is a new non-profit self-regulatory organisation for Estate planning consultants and Will Writers. One of our aims is to improve the reputation of the sector and help support our members in any way that we can.

This email has been sent on behalf of nearly 50 professionals consisting of Directors, Solicitors, Estate planning consultants and Financial Planners who have come together to try and address the issues that we, as a professional network, are encountering on a daily basis from failings at the OPG. Many individuals within our network have tried, and failed, to complain to you regarding the ongoing issues. Disappointingly no action seems to have been taken so far to improve these problems. We write this email in the hope that this will encourage you to address these issues that are severely impacting not only the professional population but also their clients.

We as a professional community, understand the hardships and difficulties that have been brought on by the Covid era. We have all felt the negative impact of this in one way or another. We accept that timescales can increase due to a demand surge following the lockdown periods. We can also accept that many of your staff will have had to adapt, and working from home arrangements will have had to be implemented, again increasing timescales. Whilst clearly your staff are under immense pressure we also know that they are only human and mistakes can be made. However the current delays in registering the LPA’s and the consistent mistakes that are being made are simply unacceptable and change needs to be actioned now before any more clients suffer as a result of this.

We believe the current timescales to register an LPA is 6 months. Sadly many of our network have experienced the death of a client whilst waiting for an LPA to be registered. This document which could have made their lives a little easier during their last days never arrived.

A professional Nicola Combe, who is the Director at Morecombe Bay Wills and Estates, recently posted on LinkedIn to ask her network what issues they were having when dealing with the OPG. The response was an outpouring of concerning examples of failings by the OPG. As a result of this, the BEST Foundation has stepped in to collate all responses and send this email in the hope that we can help to bring about change. We feel it is necessary to highlight these issues so that you can appreciate how serious this situation is, and how far-reaching the problems seem to be. For client confidentiality reasons we cannot provide the names of our clients but below are comments made by some of the professionals who have signed this email.

Administration problems

“We have recently received an LPA after chasing that has been dated 28.03.2022 then crossed out and re-dated 14.02.2022 then sent with a letter backdated to 14.02.2022. The other LPA for this client was received in April and dated January.”

“We have recently received registered LPA’s with missing pages after waiting months for them to be processed so now they can’t be used anyway!”

“When the missing pages were finally returned some of the pages were ripped!”

“We have recently received an LPA after chasing that has been dated 28.03.2022 then crossed out and re-dated 14.02.2022 then sent with a letter backdated to 14.02.2022. The other LPA for this client was received in April and dated January.”

“1 of 2 documents issued 1 March. The other was reviewed and passed but not yet registered as of 14th April 2021. I was told –‘We will put it on the priority list for registration’”

“I’m still waiting a year on for a clients documents to be returned. This is after receiving an apology from the OPG as they lost the continuation sheet after it had been scanned by them and I’m waiting for the documents to be returned with an office copy for the continuation sheet! I’ve spent hours on this one case alone!”

“Apart from the increasing delays, it is almost impossible to get a clear answer on what is happening with cases after you spend an eternity on hold.”

Payment problems

“I have reverted to using cheques on all applications as the card payment system is just not reliable enough. We have wasted so much time chasing applications due to payment issues.”

“We’re back to sending cheques to avoid the letters asking for payment which take weeks to be issued and even when already paid still send them. Waiting on some from September last year. Complaints system is not working either.”

Postage problems

“One LPA took 8 weeks to be returned in the post after they posted it. Posting documents back by 2nd class post is also poor service, especially when they take so long to return.”

“Recently we have had 2 clients whose registratered LPAS were sent back to them normal 2nd post and got lost in the post.”

“Partial revocation, submitted early January. All the amended originals sent directly to the customer on 5 March, despite requesting they come back to us. We had no notifications at all that these had been sent! Customer now in care so the home are trying to find the documents!!!”

Delays

“I have had to tell clients that I cannot predict when documents will be registered. Worse case were documents registered last August – finally received just before Easter!! I chased and chased to no avail.”

“3 of 4 documents issued 7 March. The last one was registered 1 March, but not yet despatched. I was told ‘We will mark it for despatch now …’”

The above are only a few snippets of the numerous comments and examples shared by those in the industry. We could provide many more examples. Many have commented that they have waited months to receive LPA’s back from you, only to receive documents with pages missing or pages ripped. Thus meaning the documents are worthless and the process needs to be started again. Documents have also been lost in the post after waiting months to receive them back. We do not believe that 2nd class post for such important documents, after such a long wait already is adequate to return them. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any part of your process which is functioning satisfactorily at the moment. Those that have added their name to this email are the professionals who understand how valuable and important LPA documents are. Often the delays and errors made by the OPG are tarnishing their reputation and hindering client relationships.

These issues and our LinkedIn posts have also been highlighted by Todays Wills & Probate. https://www.todayswillsandprobate.co.uk/opg-criticised-on-linkedin-delays-increasing-and-service-deteriorating/

It is great that the OPG is investing so much time and resources into moving to digital platforms. However please remember that there are often vulnerable individuals who are relying on these documents and it is very important that the OPG does not lose sight of this. The clients are our main focus and we hope that you will take action to put those clients back at the forefront of your organisation.

We hope that you will help us to help you. We understand that time will be needed to execute any plan of action to make improvements however by engaging with us this will demonstrative a proactive approach to these issues and provide a much needed boost for public perception and the perception in the professional industry at the moment. If we do not receive a satisfactory response then we will have no choice but to take this further.

As mentioned we are a non-profit organisation and we would welcome a meeting with you, either face to face or virtually where we can discuss ideas on how these problems can be tackled. We would be happy to act as a communication link between yourselves and the professional network of Estate planning practitioners, Will Writers and Solicitors. We hope to hear from you very soon.

Yours faithfully

Katy Kirkland – Company Secretary at the BEST Foundation on behalf of

Nicola Combe – Director at Morecombe Bay Wills and Estates

Alistair Thomson – Partner at Chattertons Solicitors & Wealth Management

Rebecca Linsell – Partner, Rosalind Watchorn solicitors

Ruth Pannell – Lawyer at The Inheritance Department

Anthony Rockliffe – Founder of Southeast Legacies

Jamie Shepherd – Estate planning practitioner at Soteria Planning

Maria Goodacre – Chartered Legal Executive at Clifton Ingram LLP Solicitors

Nicole Dean – Co-owner of The Will Guys & WillHub

Emma Aslett – Head of the Wills & Probate department at Penn Chambers Solicitors

Ann-Marie Shine Newton – Will Writer at Stanford Legal Services

Paul Stanford – Director at Stanford Legal Services

Sara Sheppard – Estate planning consultant

Charlotte Ponder– Director at CTT Group

Clive Ponder– Director at CTT Group

Andrew Houston – Director at CTT Group

Spencer Tattam Director at CTT Group

Anthony Mbanefo-Harris – Managing Director at CTT Law Ltd

Michelle Baden-Daintree – Associate Director at Simpson Solicitors

Natasha Marshalsea Harding – Trainee solicitor at Tiger Law UK

Lyndzey (Cook) Smissen – Head of Wills, Trusts and Probate at Paytons Solicitors LLP

Kirsty Limacher – Consultant Solicitor at Sherlock Legal Consulting

Robynne Caswell – Legal Services Manager at Olive Tree Law Ltd

Zac Cross – Trainee Solicitor at Devonalds Solicitors

Jade Gani – Solicitor & Head of Private Client at Meadows Ryan Solicitors Ltd

Fiona Reid – Self-employed Solicitor, Consultant Solicitor at RJR Legal Limited and Setfords Solicitors

Sarah McGuire – Patron Wills Ltd

Mark Everest – Estate Planning Consultant at Fielding Triggs LLP

Michaela Forty – Managing Director at Family Care Advice Ltd

Hardeep Gill – Technical Trust Administration Manager at Legacy Wills & Estate Planning

Helen Eynon – Director at Wills Etc Ltd

Trevor Worth – Managing Director at Portcullis Legals Ltd

Caroline Sandiford – Estate Planning Advisor

Ramid Khan – Director at RRK Legal LTD

Emma Grundy – Director and Private Client Solicitor at Kennys Solicitors Ltd

Sarah Williams – Director at Accord Wills Ltd

Saher Iqbal – Private Client Solicitor at Thomas Flavell & Sons

Richard Mulholland – Estate Planner at The Will Guys Ltd

Jonathan Maskew – Commercial Director at Taylor Rose MW

Jan Lanaway – Estate Planning Consultant at Wills and Estate Planning Partnership

Corin Holness – Group Development Director at Sail Group

Tim Williams – Estate planning consultant at Planning a Will

Jill Clayton – Head of Corporate Partnerships at Kingsman Associates

Paul Balkham – Bespoke Wills & Estate Planning Ltd

Clare Malley – Will Writer at Wise Owl Wills and Estates

David Singh – Self-employed financial planner

Claudine Jackson – Founder of the Estate Planner’s Toolkit

Caroline Britain – Will Writer at Caroline Britain Wills

Stephen Pett- Probate Guide at The Probate Department (brokers) Ltd

Sarah Biggs (Reynolds) Director of Whitedove Wills and Estate Planning

Today's Wills and Probate

1 Comment

  • Whole heartedly agree – and apply for hundreds of LPAs – which, in my experience are taking 4-5 months to turn around by the OPG. And yes, now seeing multiple mistakes and further delays, inlcuding recent receipt of two cases that weren’t even mine!
    Of course there is both a business opportunity and benefit in offering the inferior General (Ordinary) Power of Attorney PLUS an Advance Decision /Advance Directive /Living Will as an interim stop-gap at least affording some ‘instant’ protection. Let’s hope for improvement soon (when even 2 months was long enough)!

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