COVID-19 is making the signing process of wills and lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) more difficult currently and due to social distancing many elderly and vulnerable people could be left in their homes and unable to make financial decisions. They could consider the use of an LPA but they could be left with no one to make their decisions for a while due to difficulties getting this signed completely along with waiting for the Office of the Public Guardian to register their LPAs. To combat this, clients could consider using a general power of attorney in the interim.
What is a general power of attorney?
A general power of attorney, also known as an ordinary power of attorney, is a type of power of attorney that allows a donor to name attorneys to make financial decisions on their behalf. The document could be general, allowing the attorneys to make decisions on any of the donor’s property and finances, or it may be limited to only specific decisions.
General powers of attorney are limited to only decisions about financial affairs and cannot be used to make decisions on a donor’s health and welfare. They will last until the donor dies or loses mental capacity, until the document is revoked or until the document ends by the terms of the document itself (for example if the document only lasts a year).
Why you might use a general power of attorney currently?
General powers of attorney are much simpler than LPAs. These are generally no longer than a page and their signing requirements are much simpler too. The document only needs to be signed by the donor of the power and one witness. The attorneys do not need to sign the document and there are no requirements for a certificate provider to sign. The reduced requirements are signing are highly advantageous in these times when social distancing is key and it can be difficult to get multiple parties together to sign the document.
A general power of attorney also does not need to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. It can be used as soon as it has been signed.
WillPack still recommend the use of LPAs, as these will last beyond the loss of mental capacity and allow the donor to appoint attorneys to make decisions on their health and welfare.
General powers of attorney can still have a use currently to allow for a donor who is elderly or vulnerable to appoint attorneys in a simpler manner. We would however only recommend that these are considered as a ‘stop-gap’ measure whilst the current situation is ongoing. The client could either make a general power of attorney and plan to make LPAs once the circumstance improve or alternatively make LPAs with a general of attorney alongside them. Their attorneys could use the general power of attorney now if needed before the LPAs are registered. Once the LPAs are registered, the general power of attorney could be revoked.
If you wish to know any further information on this, please feel free to contact us on [email protected].