Industry experts have reacted positively with certain caveats to the consultation launched today ( 20 July) by UK's Office of the Public Guardian to modernise the process of creating and registering an Lasting Power of Attorney.
Kim Jarvis, technical manager at Canada Life said: "This is a real step in the right direction by the Office of the Public Guardian. The number of registered lasting powers of attorney (LPA) has increased drastically in recent years to more than five million, but the process of making one retains many paper-based features that are over 30 years old.
She added: "This is already an unsustainable process in today's society and will become increasingly outdated in years to come. Currently there is a delay of about 12 weeks for people to get LPAs registered and this consultation will assess the possibility of creating a digital fast track service for families who need to quickly set up an LPA for a relative who has suffered a sudden change in their health.
This consultation will assess the possibility of creating a digital fast track service for families who need to quickly set up an LPA for a relative who has suffered a sudden change in their health."
It will also look at making the process of objecting to an LPA simpler, as well as introducing new safeguards to protect against fraud and abuse."
Jarvis concluded: "Lasting powers of attorney create a peace of mind around the safety and security of family finances. Just like creating a will or nominating a next of kin, LPA's should be viewed as an integral part of long-term planning."
While Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter, also said the LPA was "vitally important in the management of our personal finances and provides a crucial protection in the fight against the vulnerable being defrauded".
She said: "The pandemic had a huge impact on the number of LPAs being registered and it appears to be a slow march back to what we would consider pre-pandemic levels. It does remain a concern should we not get back to those pre-pandemic levels as this will mean numerous families are being left exposed to dangers that are becoming increasingly sophisticated and harder to spot.
"It is hoped the Office of the Public Guardian has used the pandemic to look at where the process can be streamlined and made easier so people can get an LPA in place with minimal fuss as having one can make a huge difference to someone's finances. These changes must also include raising awareness with the public at large. Far too few people are aware of LPAs and their benefits, so any overhaul must seek to improve knowledge of them and how to go about attaining one.
Griffin added: "While this consultation is clearly a step in the right direction, it is important, however, that people do not wait until a new system is in place. An LPA can only be registered while you have mental capacity - once you've lost capacity it is too late.
While the conversation with family members can be hard and the process time-consuming, it must be put to the top of the to-do list or risk losing this vital avenue of protection."