Ison Harrison has joined up with other leading solicitors in the country in expressing caution with regards calls from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to make lasting power of attorney (LPA) registration fully digital. The proposals would remove the need for a ‘wet signature’ in person and would therefore potentially open the door to a huge increase in fraud and financial abuse of already, in many cases, vulnerable people.

Gayle Mellard, a Solicitor and Branch Manager at our Morley office, has joined with other members of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) in warning against this move, which comes at the same time as the Law Commission is pushing for the Will-making process to also be fully digitised. The argument there is that making a Will can be done following a simple template and completed and stored electronically to save time, space, money and the environment.

With an LPA the basic principle is that a person is entrusting others to make important decisions about their finances or health and welfare on their behalf, and hence the physical instruction to do this – via a face to face wet signature – remains paramount in enforcing the integrity of this process, as one done by the individual concerned with full knowledge and understanding, and with no room for ambiguity.

Our principles as a leading solicitors’ firm in Yorkshire

The FCA has released a paper calling for a fully digital system, which would allow LPA documents to be registered completely online. The stance of Ison Harrison is that we are always happy to support plans to make legal processes simpler and more accessible, but our main concern here is to put our clients’ welfare first. That concern is that this puts the security of vulnerable people at risk.

As Gayle states,

Having an end-to-end digital LPA registration process is not workable under the current system- it is simply not secure. People would be open to a risk of fraud and financial abuse. The basic objective of an LPA is to obtain the understanding and consent of the donor and to put this in writing. If you don’t include the witnessing of a physical signature in this, then you are leaving it open to anybody, particularly family members or friends, to register a document on someone else’s behalf, and it wouldn’t be difficult to do this completely without their knowledge.

Digitising the LPA process

While we accept there are ways to make the LPA process easier, the idea of clicking a few keys online in order to take control of someone’s financial affairs may cause unwanted problems.

The SFE is a group of over 1500 solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives. It acts independently as a national organisation to offer specialist legal advice to the older generation and Ison Harrison is part of this organisation. The SFE warned against risks of fraud in the current online LPA system last year, and it is clear that the proposals to fully digitise the process will do nothing to alleviate those concerns. If you have any queries relating to this article, or are considering putting a Power of Attorney in place, call Gayle on 0113 284 5124 today.

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