Almost 750,000 people signing Lasting Powers of Attorney every year

The number of people formally giving decision-making to those they trust via a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) has soared by more than 180 percent in the last five years. This figure is up by more than a quarter in the last year alone when 726,000 people handed over control of their affairs to those they trust.

LPAs allow individuals to appoint a person they know and trust to act on their behalf in relation to decision making. This power continues even in situations where someone has lost their mental capacity. LPAs grant legal authority over issues including money, property and health.

Failure to register an LPA with the Court of Protection could mean someone unsuitable assuming control of an individual’s personal affairs, increasing the risk of financial abuse. It can also mean that an individual’s assets are frozen for an extended period while that person’s ability to make their own decisions are assessed if concerns about their mental capacity have been raised. In situations where a family business or other financial commitments such as a mortgage are involved, this freezing can cause considerable problems.

Without a valid LPA in place, some individuals can be left more vulnerable to potential financial abuse as they have little to no direct control over who looks after their affairs, should they lose the ability to do so themselves.

The rise in LPA registrations comes as longer life expectancies mean there is a higher chance people will lose the ability to make decisions for themselves during their lifetime. At the time of their birth, males born in 1951 – and who are therefore coming up to retirement now – were expected to live to the age of 66 and females to 72. Today, their life expectancies have increased to 84 and 92 years respectively.

A recent mortality study found that the most common cause of death in 2016 was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, data released by the Ministry of Justice shows that 48% more women registered LPAs last year than men. With women typically living longer than men, it is more likely that they will need support from friends and family members.

Even in modern day times, some women are still dependent on their husbands to have responsibility for the family’s finances, as part of a generation when for many, their husband’s role as financial provider was a clearly defined social expectation. Many women who outlive their husbands therefore may find that their lack of experience in dealing with finances can make an LPA necessary.

Under an LPA you can choose people you trust implicitly to act in your best interests – and who know you well – to manage your property and finances. Taking legal advice over the appointment of an attorney can ensure that there are safeguards in place against financial abuse.

Against the backdrop of an ageing population, the Government has been campaigning to raise the profile of LPAs. Application forms and processes have been simplified and on 1 April 2017 the cost of LPA applications was reduced from £110 to £82.

Ann-Marie Matthews is a solicitor in the private client team at Barker Gotelee, Solicitors in Suffolk.

Suffolk Probate Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email