The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is experiencing a backlog of cases and mass delays. It currently takes approximately 20 weeks to register a lasting power of attorney (LPA). The pre-pandemic time frame was 10 weeks. These timeframes can cause those suffering from injury or illness to worry about their property or finances, especially if their condition deteriorates.
Below are tips to stop further delays and alternatives to an LPA. For answers to frequently asked questions on power of attorney, please read our recent guide.
The OPG delay and tips
In a press release on 10 May 2021, the OPG stated that the delays began in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Staff were encouraged to work from home as office staff were reduced due to social distancing rules.
The OPG states that new online tools have been implemented to make the process easier for people to get the application right the first time, avoiding further delays.
When making an application to register an LPA, make sure you use the OPG’s step-by-step guidance. The online service will highlight potential issues with the application before you print, sign and send it. It is important to check all aspects of the application to cut down on mistakes.
In addition, the OPG has published a blog on the most common errors it sees and has released a podcast with its top tips (which can be found here). Using all these resources can cut down on errors and make sure your application is not rejected, causing the process to be restarted.
Many creditors and organisations will accept verbal authority from the named account holder, who can discuss and manage the account on their behalf. However, it is important to note that many organisations will only accept authority as a one-off.
This option can be helpful to gather information on the account, such as balance information or contact details. However, if the account holder is likely to need to speak to creditors regularly, more permanent permission may be required.
Form of authority
A form of authority or letter of authority is a document that will give authority to a third party to correspond with organisations on the account holder’s behalf. The document will allow the third party to liaise with organisations about the account, handle administrative changes, request and receive data and information and, if necessary, request and negotiate for payment holidays.
It is important to note that while some creditors will ask for an updated form of authority after an extended period, it can be a helpful document to use while waiting for an LPA to be registered.
Some patients may struggle to sign a form of authority due to injury or illness. In this instance, a mark on the document is sufficient. However, if they cannot hold a pen, a thumbprint can be used instead, or someone can be instructed to sign the form on their behalf.
Third-party mandate for banks
A third-party mandate is a formal arrangement with a bank whereby the account holder authorises a third party to carry out transactions on their behalf. The mandate will require the completion of a form, and the account holder will need to contact the bank directly and follow their processes for setting it up.
However, it is crucial to know that the mandate is only valid while the account holder has mental capacity and can make decisions for themselves. Once they do not have such mental capacity, the authority of the person appointed to act under the mandate ends automatically. At that point, a property and financial affairs LPA would need to be in place.
Ordinary (general) power of attorney
It may be prudent to set up an ordinary power of attorney (also referred to as a general power of attorney) as an alternative to an LPA where help is needed for managing financial affairs on a short term or temporary basis.
There is no set way of making an ordinary power of attorney, and it does not need to be registered with the OPG. However, the deed must use this wording:
“This general power of attorney is made this day of (X) by me (donor’s full name) of (address). I appoint (attorney’s full name) of (address) (joint) / (jointly / jointly and severally) to be my attorney(s) in accordance with section 10 of the Powers of Attorney Act 1971.
“Signed by me as a deed and delivered.”
It is important to note that an ordinary power of attorney ends if the donor loses mental capacity, or they revoke the deed. If it is likely that the donor is going to lose mental capacity in the foreseeable future, it will be worth applying for an LPA while using an ordinary power of attorney.
These options cannot compare to the long-term benefit of a lasting power of attorney for property and financial affairs but may provide some temporary relief that a friend or family member can assist someone suffering from illness or injury while they focus on their recovery.
The Legal Service – We are here to help
The Legal Service, delivered by our pro bono team, provides patients with advice without obligation, for however long it takes to resolve the issue. Our support is available regardless of the circumstances of an accident and regardless of whether a patient has a personal injury claim.
In these difficult times, the concerns of our pro bono clients are likely to be more stark than those in more fortunate circumstances. The Legal Service will be available throughout the crisis to help in any way we can to ease the burden on our clients.
To get advice from The Legal Service, please contact Kara Smith by phone on 020 7822 8000 or by email at email@example.com.
You can find further information regarding our injury expertise, experience and team on our Personal Injury pages.