A law firm is today reminding people about the need for specialist legal advice when creating a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), following a national investigation into ‘DIY’ methods.
Birchall Blackburn Law, which has seven offices across the North West, has joined a number of organisations representing older and vulnerable people to raise serious concerns around the Government’s online tool for creating LPAs.
An LPA is a powerful legal document which allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.
In May 2014, the Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched its online LPA tool, which it claims allows people to create the documents without the need for professional advice from a solicitor.
But the ‘The Real Cost of DIY LPAs’ report, published following a study which saw participants use the DIY methods, warns anyone creating an LPA without taking specialist legal advice faces a significantly higher risk of being left with an ineffective legal document, incurring additional application fees, and even becoming a victim of fraud or coercion.
The report and research has been published by a coalition of organisations led by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE).
Cathy MacCracken, partner at Birchall Blackburn Law and full accredited member of SFE said:
“Our clients often ask why they should pay our charges for preparing LPAs when they can simply do them themselves online. We fully appreciate that our clients are cost conscious and want value for money, but the reality is, using online tools and DIY methods could mean that your wishes aren’t correctly expressed or mistakes in the documents could make them ineffective.
“This is a sensitive and specialist area of the law the right legal advice means that all options are explored and a person’s wishes are safeguarded for the future.”
During a study conducted for the report, participants were invited to create LPAs using the OPG’s online tool and other ‘DIY’ methods. The study revealed that:
- Some of the forms did not accurately express the way in which participants would want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future
- Documents made using DIY methods were more likely to contain elementary mistakes, rendering them ineffective and requiring additional application fees
- Following consultation with a solicitor, most participants made significant changes to the permissions of their documents regarding how and by whom their affairs were managed
To download the report ‘The Real Cost of DIY LPAs’ go to: http://www.sfe.legal