Hidden costs of a DIY LPA
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is an important document which gives people you choose the legal authority to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
Not just for older people
LPAs are often seen as documents for older people, but sadly people can lose capacity at any age. People often think about dementia when considering LPAs, but capacity could be lost through an accident, an illness (including mental health illnesses) or a condition.
The pandemic has made the need for LPAs more evident as people realise that having severe symptoms of Covid 19 may cause a person to lose capacity. A lack of capacity could be temporary or it could be longer lasting.
It’s important not to delay making LPAs in case it suddenly becomes too late.
At a glance, the LPA forms whilst being lengthy (usually 20 pages including registration pages) can seem straightforward – you fill in your details, your attorneys’ details, tick a few boxes and sign the documents. However, there can actually be numerous pitfalls with LPAs. These pitfalls may be found when the documents are registered or they may only be found when the documents are in use (by which time it could be too late to make new ones).
A study by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) in 2016 highlighted the hidden cost of DIY LPAs which can leave the donor (the person creating the LPA) open to fraud, could result in the LPA being invalid or might not give the attorneys sufficient powers to make appropriate decisions for the donor. The SFE study (which can be found here) asked participants to create DIY LPAs which were then analysed by professionals. Whilst the forms have changed slightly since the study, the results recorded still ring true for many DIY LPAs we see.
Many DIY LPAs are blank in the preferences and instructions boxes, but due to our experience in using LPAs we now often include suitable clauses in the majority of applications. Donors may not think about what happens if their attorney is incapacitated, dies or is temporarily unavailable, we advise on this. Donors and Attorneys may sign the LPAs in the incorrect order, or make mistakes on forms which are then rejected on registration. People often don’t realise there are two types of LPAs; one dealing with financial decisions and another dealing with health.
How do I make an LPA?
When considering making these crucially important documents, for your protection and peace of mind, we recommend taking contacting a solicitor who can provide advice to you on your options and help guide you to create a robust document that achieves your wishes.
Rebecca Dixon is an SFE accredited solicitor in the private client department at Barker Gotelee, Suffolk solicitors.