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Lasting Powers of Attorneys; The dangers of Do-It-Yourself LPA documents
We often hear people comment that the benefits of completing DIY LPAs is that you will avoid the professional fees of paying a solicitor. By using the OPG’s online services or an off-the-shelf kit it means the only fee payable is the cost to apply to register the documents with the OPG, currently £82 per document.
However, as the OPG itself have identified a number of common errors and risks due to DIY LPAs, is doing it yourself really the best way to complete them?
If you require further legal advice, please contact our Wills, Trusts and Estate team.
Having completed the DIY LPA you may find the final document may not be as legally robust as was originally intended. Often people refer to the process as ‘simple form filling’ when in reality the forms can be much more complicated to complete. Even when there is a large volume of guidelines, it can be easy to make a mistake, which may not be identified until much later. This can result in further payments to the OPG where repeat application fees, or even a whole new application may be needed. At this point you may need a solicitor to unravel the effect of a document that has been incorrectly drafted.
Alternatively, even if mistakes pass through the OPG checking system, such as a name or date of birth being incorrectly noted, the LPA may be rejected in future by banks, utility providers or medical professionals.
Attempting to sort out mistakes once an LPA has been registered can not only be expensive but can also be time-consuming and stressful, perhaps at a time when the document may be needed the most, or when the capacity of the person granting the LPA is fluctuating. It may therefore not be possible to obtain a further LPA.
Secondly, the person making the LPA can more easily become a victim of fraud or coercion if a DIY method is used. Where a legal professional is used to create the LPA, they also act as an important safeguard when fulfilling their role as ‘Certificate Provider’. Their removal from the process can lead to an LPA being falsified, or a vulnerable donor being persuaded to sign something they do not fully understand or are not comfortable with.
Finally, there is a real risk with DIY methods that the person creating an LPA does not adequately express their wishes and preferences or understand that they can set out such information within the LPA. It can be very worrying for someone to think about what may happen to them if they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves. If they do not fully understand the document and the information it can contain they may end up with at best, a badly drafted LPA and at worst, an invalid document.
For an individual thinking about another person making decisions about their bank accounts or where they should live, or how they should be cared for it can be very overwhelming. There are clearly important factors to consider and adequate time must be given to the person to understand the implications of LPAs and the guidance and detail that can be set out within the documents. A vital part of a solicitor’s role is to provide options and choice which an individual can then consider, taking into account their wishes and feelings. Without professional support, it could be easy for someone to create an LPA, or be coerced into creating one, that does not accurately reflect the way in which they want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future. By doing so, they may also inadvertently open themselves up to the risk of fraud and financial abuse.
There are many people for whom these risks are considerable, particularly if their affairs are complex or if they lack confidence with legal processes.
What to do now?
By instructing one of our specialist advisors we aim to offer peace of mind that details important to you are included in a validly created document.