The number of Power of Attorney (LPA) applications rose by 5% between January and March, official statistics show – but there is a risk that they could fall as a result of social distancing measures brought in to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legal experts say that LPAs give people peace of mind by allowing them to make an informed decision about who will manage their affairs if they become mentally incapacitated.
There are two types of LPA, one covering property and financial affairs and another for health and welfare. When used correctly, an LPA can ensure that the interests of vulnerable people are safeguarded.
Although an LPA application can be made online, signatures from the ‘donor’ and the ‘attorney’ must be witnessed in person by someone impartial.
The latest figures from the Family Court suggest that there could be close to a million new applications per year at the current rate – but the number could fall given the requirements around wet signatures and the difficulty getting that done during social distancing.
But Rachael Griffin, a tax and financial planning expert at Quilter, said that social distancing restrictions have led to an “unprecedented” set of circumstances that meant some families have been witnessing legal documents through a ground floor window or meeting in a public space and keeping their distance while documents were witnessed.
Griffin said: “This is unconventional and some people will have been unable or unwilling to complete this formal legal procedure under those conditions.
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“This can be really important as individuals may experience distress and even family conflict if they’re trying to make complex choices about their financial and health needs at a time when they are grappling with the deterioration of their mental faculties.”
Griffin said: “If there is a decline in LPA applications in the second quarter as a result it should hopefully only be temporary.”