13 October 2021
Powers of attorney:
CILEX welcomes modernisation and calls for additional reform to protect citizens without digital access
CILEX (the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) has welcomed government proposals to modernise lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) and push ‘technological boundaries’ to improve the efficiency of a system that is currently beset by delays and inconsistencies.
Responding to the Ministry of Justice consultation, CILEX supports the introduction of qualified electronic signatures as not just in the interests of consumers in general, but for the clients of CILEX Lawyers in particular, given it will remedy the longstanding anomaly preventing CILEX Lawyers from certifying copies of LPAs.
CILEX’s response also noted that the current proposals do not resolve the certification barriers on copies for consumers who cannot, or choose not to, access legal services digitally. The institute has called for this barrier to be addressed with an additional commitment to amend the Powers of Attorney Act 1971 to enable CILEX Lawyers to certify copies of the original documentation when this is required.
This would, as the response reads, “have the added benefit of empowering circa 3,000 additional lawyers to deliver these much-needed services”.
The further key points raised by CILEX were:
- That qualified electronic signatures, an innovative solution to a long-standing problem that causes unnecessary delays and confusion for practitioners, to the detriment of clients, should be adopted and implemented at the earliest opportunity.
- That the changes have the potential to address practitioners’ concerns that delays to LPA registrations have caused clients and their families “additional stress and worry”, particularly over the COVID period.
- Modernisation efforts need to remain sensitive to the vulnerabilities of an older client demographic and to ensure that the ability to safeguard against abuse, fraud and undue influence is not hindered as a result of the overhaul.
- That government should work more closely with the profession to raise awareness of new technologies, to collaborate closely with tech providers in understanding risk assessments and the limitations of any new solutions, and to pilot proposals within client transactions so they can be safely developed for wider adoption in practice.
CILEX Chair, Professor Chris Bones, says: “Government efforts to modernise the LPA system, using digital systems and solutions, are an important step that will bring the process into the modern age.
“With full engagement with both the legal profession and technology providers, the proposals have the potential to create a more streamlined process that will benefit consumers. It is also important that it contains the necessary safeguards to protect the vulnerable from exploitation.
“The proposals do not, however, remove the need for the government to change the law on the certification of copies of LPAs as some clients in this market can find digital engagement confusing and disempowering and will continue to require physical copies. We want to see government include in its final proposals a commitment to amend the Powers of Attorney Act 1971 to ensure the benefits in this proposed change extend to all consumers, not just those who utilise digital platforms.”
For further information, please contact:
Louise Eckersley, Black Letter Communications on 0203 567 1208
Kerry Jack, Black Letter Communications on 07525 756 599