Lasting Power of Attorney delays – What to do next
Lasting Power of Attorney delays - what to do if yours is caught in the backlog
Lengthy hold-ups in the time it takes for powers of attorney to be registered with the government agency responsible have been reported in the news recently.
Waiting times are said to have risen from 40 days to 140 days over the course of the pandemic with a third of a million applications for lasting power of attorney (LPA) potentially stuck in the backlog.
This is causing stress and upset for families who need this vital document in place so they can take over crucial finances for loved ones - such as selling a home to pay care home fees.
It's also extremely worrying for those suffering from injury or illness with uncertainty about their property, finances or healthcare provision in the future, especially if their condition deteriorates.
What is causing the delay in LPA registrations?
There are two types of LPA, one for property and financial affairs and one which covers health and welfare decisions, including end-of life care. Both must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) before they can be used.
The OPG says the delays began at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 when staff were encouraged to work from home because of social distancing rules.
However, problems have continued to build. The OPG says it has hired more staff but claims a combination of an increase in LPA applications plus the need to digitise the processing system is affecting the speed at which it can work.
What exactly does the Office of the Public Guardian do?
The OPG maintains the registers for Lasting and Enduring Powers of Attorney in England and Wales with five million currently registered.
It also acts as an important safeguarding authority to protect people who lack mental capacity from abuse by stepping in when there are concerns about an attorney, deputy or guardian.
I'm just about to register an LPA - can I help speed up its progress?
Ensuring you submit your application without mistakes is key because otherwise you may have to start the whole process again from scratch, potentially making the wait time even longer.
The OPG has online step-by-step guidance for each stage of the application which can highlight problems as you fill in the form.
It also has a list of the ten most common mistakes and how to avoid them when submitting an LPA which you can read by clicking here.
Is there anything I can do whilst waiting for my LPA to be registered?
You may be able to put peace-of-mind measures in place while you wait for your LPA to be registered to enable someone else to make certain decisions for you in the short term, as long as you have mental capacity.
This could include:
- Writing down what you want in terms of your future health and welfare and property and financial affairs and telling your family, although this is not legally binding;
- Allowing someone you trust to manage your property and financial affairs by setting up a third-party mandate with your bank or building society;
- Making an Ordinary or General Power of Attorney. Often used when someone is temporarily unwell, this must include specific wording which a specialist solicitor can advise you on;
- Recording your wishes for your future treatment and care. An advance decision is legally binding, as long as certain criteria are met, and allows you to refuse a specific type of treatment in the future;
- Setting out your preferences, wishes, beliefs and values regarding any future care. This isn't legally binding but anyone making decisions about your care must take your views into account.
Get in touch
Despite the current delays, an LPA, if drawn up properly by a specialist solicitor, is a positive and effective tool which ensures your wishes are respected should you ever lose mental capacity and are unable to manage your own affairs.
Lasting Powers of Attorney enable you to choose the person (or people) you want to manage your finances, pay bills and make medical decisions (including where you live) in case you are not be able to make those decisions in the future.
Wards Solicitors' specialist Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity lawyers are trained to give you highly confidential, bespoke advice about the options available. Please contact any member of the Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity Team.