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Have you considered who would manage your affairs and make decisions, if you have an illness or accident that leaves you incapable of looking after things yourself? A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) enables you to appoint someone you trust to look after your financial affairs or your health and welfare, with minimum effort, delay and expense.

The process of applying has become much simpler since an online system was introduced a few years ago, which has encouraged many more people to prepare an LPA, with digital applications soaring from 14,000 in the year to March 2014 to 164,000 in the year to March 2017. Paper applications have risen also, and a total of almost 560,000 registrations were made in the year to March 2017, compared with 200,000 in March 2012. But while easier to make, they are also easy to abuse, if safeguards are not put in place.

Unfortunately, that is demonstrated by reports of a significant increase in the number of investigations into the actions of attorneys and deputies who have been appointed under an LPA. These have increased by more than 40% in the past year – 1,729 investigations were carried out in 2017-18 – up from 1,199 the previous year, according to the Office of the Public Guardian, which is responsible for administering LPAs.

An LPA is a valuable tool, but the right safeguards must be in place and everyone needs to understand what is involved, and the responsibilities it brings. Professional guidance can make the difference in ensuring adequate control on those acting as attorneys, to help avoid mistakes or in the worst case, abuse.

An attorney has far reaching powers and problems are likely to arise if they do not appreciate the role they are undertaking, or if there are insufficient checks and balances in the process.

Before appointing an attorney, think about how well they look after their own finances, how well you know them and how sure you are that they will make the right decisions for you. Even where an attorney acts with the best intentions to respond to the trust placed in them, if they are disorganised or indecisive, this can impact on their ability to make good decisions, just as much as if they are self-serving.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.