Storrar Cowdry warns changes to Powers of Attorney may leave older and vulnerable at risk
25 September, 2017
• Louise Eccleston from Storrar Cowdry issues warning following FCA’s call to turn Lasting Powers of Attorney fully digital
• Proposals would remove the need for a physical ‘wet signature’
• Solicitors say this could lead to a drastic increase in cases of financial abuse
Storrar Cowdry Head of Private Client, Louise Eccleston, has joined fellow members of Solicitors for the Elderly in warning against proposals to turn the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) registration process fully digital.
An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions, on their behalf, about either their finances and property or about their health and care needs. Under the current process, a ‘wet signature’ – the physical signing of the document – is required by individuals who wish to register an LPA. But in a paper released on Thursday, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) called for a fully digital system, whereby documents could be registered completely online.
Louise Eccleston said: “We are extremely concerned by the FCA’s push for fully digital Lasting Powers of Attorney. Although we welcome initiatives that make LPAs more accessible, the security of older and vulnerable people is paramount. Under the current system, the FCA’s vision of a secure, end-to-end digital LPA registration process is simply not possible.
“Removing the requirement of a wet signature has the potential to put thousands of people at risk of fraud and financial abuse. An LPA requires the understanding and consent of the donor, but if the system is changed to remove the need for a witness to a physical signature, what is to stop a family member or friend registering a document on someone else’s behalf, perhaps even without their knowledge?
“LPAs are extremely powerful and complex documents, and the prospect of being able to take control of someone else’s bank account and even their property with the few clicks of a button is frankly reckless.”
Storrar Cowdry is one of the North-West’s most prestigious and well-connected legal practices. Storrar Cowdry Solicitors is based in White Friars, in Chester City Centre.
Solicitors for the Elderly is an independent, national organisation of over 1,500 lawyers, such as solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives, who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people and their families. Last year, the organisation released a report raising concerns around the current online system for LPAs, which it claims already leaves older and vulnerable people open to abuse.
LPAs are processed by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), a public body under the Ministry of Justice. The OPG has previously considered changing the LPA application process as part of a gradual move to take all its processes online.
To find out more contact Louise Eccleston on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01244 400567. For more information about Solicitors for the Elderly go to: http://www.sfe.legal