ONLINE LEGAL TOOL COULD EXPOSE VULNERABLE TO FINANCIAL ABUSE AND FRAUD

Furley Page joins national campaign to warn of risks

 

Leading Canterbury law firm Furley Page has joined organisations representing older and vulnerable people. This is to voice serious concerns about an online legal tool used to create a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

The Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched the tool in 2014. It was claimed it would allow people to create an LPA without advice from a solicitor.

But a new report, published by a coalition of organisations led by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), says:

  • Users could be left with an ineffective legal document
  • Incur additional application fees
  • Become a victim of fraud or coercion.

The report also raises concerns about the potential of a completely digital system proposed by the OPG, where physical signing of the document would no longer be required.

 

Furley Page solicitor Scott Walker explains:

“An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf in the event that they lose mental capacity.

“The prospect of being able to submit an LPA application entirely digitally is extremely concerning, and raises serious questions about the potential for fraud and financial abuse,” warns Scott, a member of Furley Page’s vulnerable client team and a Full Accredited member of the SFE.

A study conducted for the report invited participants to create LPAs using the OPG’s online tool and other DIY methods.

Consequently, the report revealed that some forms failed to accurately express the way participants wanted their affairs to be handled in the future, and that DIY documents were far more likely to contain elementary mistakes.

As a result, the number of LPAs being registered has risen steadily since the launch of the online tool, with over half a million registered in 2015/16 alone.

With the OPG receiving more than 1,000 calls to its contact centre every day, the organisations behind the campaign say the Government body is potentially exposing people to unacceptable risk and may be compromising their ability to safeguard those who are most vulnerable.

 

Scott says: “An LPA allows you to pass potentially life-changing decisions about your affairs to a third party. Granting someone this sort of authority is a huge responsibility so it’s vital you seek legal expertise.”

For further help and advice, contact Scott Walker on 01227 763939 or email him at [email protected]

The SFE report, The Real Cost of DIY LPAs, is being supported by Action on Elder Abuse, Anchor, Contact the Elderly, and SOLLA (The Society of Later Life Advisers). To download the report, go to www.sfe.legal

 

Furley Page is one of the few firms in Kent offering a specialist team with experience and knowledge dealing with complex issues affecting the elderly and vulnerable.

The team’s lawyers cover all elements

  • Court of Protection matters
  • Care issues including NHS Continuing Healthcare
  • Care fee funding
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Wills, including Advance Decisions or Living Wills.

All of the team’s specialist lawyers are also Full Accredited members of SFE.

For more about the team’s full range of support services, visit www.furleypage.co.uk

You can also follow the firm on Twitter @furleypage and on LinkedIn.

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