- Lucy Gordon of Spratt Endicott Solicitors issues a warning following FCA’s call to turn lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) 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
Lucy Gordon of Spratt Endicott Solicitors, a leading Oxfordshire law firm, has joined fellow members of Solicitors for the Elderly in warning against proposals to turn the Lasting Power of Attorney registration process fully digital.
An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about their finances and property on their behalf. 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.
Lucy Gordon, of Spratt Endicott, who specialises in wills and probate said: ‘One of our jobs as solicitors when a client wishes to draw up a Lasting Power of Attorney is to ensure that no one is pressurising him or her to sign the document. It is worrying how often we find that there is indeed undue influence and coercion. How much more frequently will this happen if there is no requirement for a ‘wet’ signature and an independent witness? This proposal by the FCA is, in my opinion, a retrogressive step and one that removes some of the safeguards in place at present, leaving elderly and vulnerable people at risk from financial abuse.’
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.
Spratt Endicott is a leading Legal 500 Oxfordshire law firm with offices in Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire, with its head office in Banbury. Providing a full range of legal services to commercial and private clients, it has a specialist department that specifically handles matters of wills and probate.
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