Government shelves plans for online lasting powers of attorney

The government has shelved its controversial plans for an online system for creating lasting powers of attorney (LPA).

The decision follows concerns raised by the Law Society and others that a fully digital system could be open to fraud and abuse.

LPAs enable you to nominate someone in advance to look after your affairs should you become incapable of doing so yourself at some point in the future. They have become increasingly popular in recent years as people plan to protect their interests as they get older.

Ministers wanted to streamline the process of setting up an LPA by creating a fully online service. A digital system was introduced last year but it still required users to print out and physically sign the appropriate forms.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had planned to remove this requirement so the whole process could be done online with the use of electronic signatures. However, the Law Society and several leading lawyers expressed concern that this would leave the process open to abuse.

The MoJ has now decided to shelve the proposals for the time being so that more research can be done to see if a secure and reliable online system can be developed.

The President of the Law Society, Andrew Caplen, welcomed the decision. He told the Law Gazette: “There are real problems to be overcome to ensure that vulnerable people are properly protected before electronic signatures can be accepted and we do not believe that government should move further until these have been satisfactorily addressed.”

However, the government remains committed to the value of LPAs. Justice Minister Simon Hughes said: “LPAs give people the peace of mind of knowing that if they ever lose capacity, the important decisions about their life can be taken by someone they have chosen and can trust. We are keeping the right safeguards in place to protect the public at what can be a vulnerable time in a person’s life.”

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