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Paper Lasting Power of Attorney forms ‘confusing users’

05/09/16

Should more of us be taking advantage of safe recording of our wishes in the event of us becoming severely ill or incapacitated?

untitledThe government likes the idea of LPAs (Lasting Power of Attorney), which it says anyone over the age of 50 should really have, especially once they set up their Will. But the same issues keep cropping up with LPAs that may be hampering wider take up, especially around overly-complex layouts of the basic form on GOV.UK.

To help, according to government experts who have been researching the topic, a move to digital LPAs might be the answer, as this could drastically cut down the large number of faulty attempts at starting a paper LPA. 

The ideas come from a new post on the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) blog – the site for the executive agency of the Ministry of Justice set up to protect people in England and Wales who may not have the mental capacity to make certain decisions for themselves, such as about their health and finance (https://publicguardian.blog.gov.uk/about-us).

“96% of (the) current reasons for errors at registration could be eliminated with the removal of paper,” says the Office’s Caroline Hufton, who’s just led a 10-week research exercise into LPAs with input from citizens, legal professionals, charities, banks and utility companies), other government departments and agencies, service providers and colleagues from across OPG.

“Developing a digital LPA could solve a lot of these problems, as well as reducing costs of postage and printing for both users and OPG.”

More research needed

The main findings of the research are that users keep making a lot of mistakes with the paper process – from not signing parts of the document in the correct order to leaving off key signatures or key dates, to getting the right pages to the right people, mixing pages up or losing them – as well as sending one properly registered LPA to multiple organisations.

Hufron says that OPG doesn’t have all the answers yet – but that, clearly, more work needs to go into seeing how an electronic LPA process could help:

“(This process) has shown us that there is a need and want for a digital LPA (and that) the benefits to both external and internal users are numerous, but there are challenges to overcome.”

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