The UK has been forced to consider what will happen if we become ill and even die over recent weeks. As Covid-19 spread, enquiries for Wills more than doubled and more people were considering what would happen if they lost capacity.
Those looking to secure a lasting power of attorney during the Covid-19 outbreak have increased at a time when the Office of the Public Guardian’s capacity has fallen.
Governmental measures have meant that more people are working remotely, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, meaning fewer employees are available to service the increased demand.
While the country remains in lockdown, the OPG has warned people looking to make an LPA that they could face extended delays beyond the usual eight weeks. Given the legal need to have your document witnessed, the OPG also advised non-urgent applications to defer their application until social distancing restrictions are lifted and their departments are working at full capacity. This will also make the process easier for the protected person (P) and their independent witnesses.
The advice does state that people are still able to apply for LPAs in the current circumstances and has suggested a number of workarounds to ensure the document is legally valid.
Your legal provider can consult with you via video conference facilities in order to ensure you have mental capacity to proceed and are not creating the document under undue influence.
The call will also help to establish exactly what you would like to protect whether it be financial support through a Property and Financial affairs LPA or health care decisions through a Health and Welfare LPA.
An independent witness, who is over the age of 18 and not the attorney or the replacement attorney must witness the donor sign the document. Each attorney must also sign it themselves in front of their own witness (who can be another attorney).
This will be a challenging feat when governmental advice suggests people should remain at home and stay at least two metres apart. The OPG advise against inviting people into your home or entering the witness or attorney’s home to sign the document.
It claims that the document could be witnessed through a window, witnessed and signed outside using black ink, or walked round to the various homes and witnessed and signed safely whilst adhering to governmental health advice.
Here at Cornerstone Wills we will witness your Lasting Power of Attorney via video call, however, in accordance with the Wills Act we are legally unable to witness wills via video.
All signatories must also ensure the document is signed in the correct order to avoid having to start the process again. The donor should sign first, followed by the independent witness and then the attorney. All signatures must sign the same single document, using black ink for the LPA to be considered valid.
In normal life, when the OPG are working at full capacity, an LPA will usually take eight weeks. This includes a compulsory four-week waiting period, created to allow objections and oppositions to be made.
However, the OPG are working at limited capacity and the registration process is likely to take significantly longer. We are living in a time where offices cannot work in their usual ways and whilst it is frustrating, patience and understanding are vital ingredients.
Cornerstone Wills are here to help with answering your questions about Lasting Powers of Attorney. Speak to our experts today, call us on 01276 415835/6/7