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Wills, Probate & Trust

Helping the vulnerable self-isolate – the role of the financial attorney

Lasting power of attorney

Monday, March 23, 2020

We are living in worrying times. For many of us, our major concern is not for our own health, but for the health of our loved ones, particularly the elderly or those with underlying health issues.  When faced with so much uncertainty and worry it can be reassuring and comforting to know that there is a practical way for us to be of use to those we love.

If you are a financial attorney for someone under a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), then you are well placed to be able to assist your loved ones if they are required to self-isolate.

How can attorneys help?

If you have not already done so, you can, with the permission of the person who appointed you as attorney (the donor), register their LPA or EPA with their bank. This will then allow you to assist them with various financial matters including:

  • Paying bills
  • Grocery shopping (either online or in store using your own card to the account to reduce the risk of transmission)
  • Arranging mortgage holidays, overdrafts etc.

Remember: if the donor is mentally capable, your role as attorney is to support them and help to implement their decisions. If they do not have capacity you can make the decision that you consider to be in their best interests.

How do I register the LPA/EPA with the bank?

1. Make sure you have access to the LPA or EPA

  • The original or a recently certified copy will be acceptable.
  • If you or the donor do not have one of these then you should contact the person that holds the original (e.g. solicitor).
  • If an LPA or EPA has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) (see below), then a certified copy can be requested from the OPG.
  • If you have an old certified copy and the document is registered then you could see if the OPG are prepared to confirm to the bank that the document has not been cancelled.

2. Make sure that the LPA or EPA is registered with the OPG if it needs to be

  • LPAs must be registered with the OPG before they can be used. This will be obvious from the document as it will have a registration date on the front page and be stamped on every page.
  • If the LPA is not registered then an application should be made to the OPG to do so. This is not a difficult process. Guidance is available online, but if you need help then we are here to assist. You can usually expect the registration process to take 8-10 weeks, so it would be best to get this in motion rather than later. It is possible to create a General Power of Attorney to assist while you wait for the LPA to be registered.
  • As long as the donor is not mentally incapable or becoming mentally incapable of making financial decisions, you can use an EPA immediately. It does not need to be registered.

3. Make sure that there are no restrictions on the use of the LPA or EPA which will prevent it being used.

  • Check that the document does not specify that it can only be used if the donor lacks mental capacity. Documents with this restriction will not help if the donor is mentally capable but unable to leave the house.
  • Check whether the attorneys are appointed jointly, or jointly and severally. If you are appointed jointly then the bank will need to deal with all attorneys and you will need to take this into consideration.

4. Contact the bank

  • All banks have their own procedures, but it generally involves you providing them with the Power of Attorney, your ID and signing a form. This is normally easiest to do in branch, but you may find it better at present to call the bank and ask them what your options are.
  • Consider carefully what services you will require. Options can include telephone banking, internet banking and the issue of a debit card.

What if there is no Power of Attorney?

Don’t worry, there are still things that you can do. Encourage your loved one to consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney. This is not an immediate fix and will take time, but we are on hand to provide all of the support your family need. We can also help set up a General Power of Attorney which can be used to assist while you are waiting for the LPA to be registered. A General Power of Attorney gives similar to a Lasting Power of Attorney whilst a person remains mentally capable. It comes to an end if mental capacity is lost so is not a permanent solution – it could however be a cheap and simple interim solution to some immediate difficulties.

What else can I do?

If possible, try and assist your loved ones to empower themselves at this uncertain time:

  • Are they set up with telephone and/or internet banking? If not, can the bank set this up for them?
  • Do they have a tablet, smart phone or computer? What apps do they need? Although using technology can be daunting, these barriers can be overcome, especially where a person has the motivation and friends and family who are prepared to provide support. Something as simple as being able to video call could make all the difference to someone in self-isolation and potentially be a way of them providing instructions ‘in person’, as well as giving you peace of mind.

Where can I find further information and guidance?

The team at Samuel Phillips are here to answer any questions that you may have at this difficult time. Please call or email any of our Wills, Probate and Trusts team for guidance and support.

You can also fund further information and guidance here:

https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney/register

https://www.gov.uk/lasting-power-attorney-duties

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/office-of-the-public-guardian

Finally, remember that each and every business is currently working hard to try to overcome the obstacles that they and their customers may face in the coming months. Engage with them and explain your issues – there is nothing like a crisis to speed up innovation and make things happen!

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Important notice

We have been informed that emails have been sent misusing the name of Samuel Phillips Law.

The emails were sent from the domain @samuelphilips.co.uk. The emails ask the recipients to transfer funds in relation to conveyancing matters to a bank account which is not associated with Samuel Phillips Law, the genuine firm.

Any business or transactions through the domain ‘@samuelphilips.co.uk’ is not undertaken by an individual or firm of solicitors authorised and regulated by the SRA.

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