New Powers of Attorney Act 2023 becomes law

A new bill aimed at speeding up and simplifying the process of registering a Lasting Power of Attorney has been passed by Parliament. The new Powers of Attorney Act 2023 became law on 18 September 2023.

Currently, the Office of the Public Guardian manages the registration of Lasting Powers of Attorney using a paper-based system. Consequently, they have had to increase staffing levels to cope with the vast amounts of documents submitted. Additionally, over six million LPAs have been registered, resulting in the submission of in excess of 19 million pieces of paper each year. Recognising the need for improvement, the government believes that switching to an online service will help streamline the process and reduce errors.

Once the digital system is implemented, those making a Lasting Power of Attorney, known as donors, will need to register the document once it has been signed. There will be the option to do this wholly online. Additionally, there will be the option to use a paper-based system or a combination of online and paper methods.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document appointing someone to deal with your affairs on your behalf. In the case that you are ever unable to do so yourself due to mental incapacity.

You can make two types of LPA. One in respect of your property and financial affairs and one for your health and welfare decisions. You can have different attorneys for each if you wish.

Once an LPA is made and registered, it can be kept as a safeguard in case it is ever needed.

Should I make and register a Lasting Power of Attorney?

LPAs are highly recommended. Consequently, if you were to become unable to manage your own affairs, your loved ones could face difficulties without an LPA. Moreover, without an LPA, no-one is legally allowed to make decisions on your behalf.

By putting a property and financial affairs LPA in place, your attorney(s) can ensure your bills are paid, look after your home, and properly manage your finances. Without an LPA, your family might need to apply for a deputyship order. This process can take many months to process and is substantially more expensive to arrange.

Once you have made an LPA, it can be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) ready for use. Therefore, it is generally advisable to register an LPA straightaway, ensuring it is available immediately, should it ever be required.

The registration process currently takes around four months to complete. The OPG may have questions as well, which could delay matters. Once registered, it can be kept in case it is ever needed.

Changes taking effect with the new Powers of Attorney Act 2023

Under the new Act, the donor must arrange for an LPA to be registered. This needs to be done as soon as the LPA has been made.

The Office of the Public Guardian takes over notifying the list of ‘people to be told’ named in the LPA. It will be open to anyone with a valid concern to raise this with the OPG.

Identity checks are carried out on those applying to register an LPA.

When will the new digital system be available?

There is no set date yet for the new digital system. Amy Holmes, Public Guardian for England and Wales has said: “Our focus now is on continuing to develop, test and refine a new online platform and improved paper process to ensure we provide a service that will include additional safeguards and suit the needs of all our customers.”

In the meantime, making and registering an LPA in the ordinary way is still recommended.

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