Lasting Powers of Attorney allow you to nominate someone of your choice to look after your affairs if you are unable to do so, writes Philip Williams, Solicitor at Harrowells Solicitors.

Everyone should consider creating Lasting Powers of Attorney but especially so in the farming community, where business and family life are heavily entwined and with the increasingly older age profile of farmers.

Currently one of the unintentionally best kept legal secrets is that, in many cases, you can manage an existing Lasting Power of Attorney online. This new service was launched with very little fanfare in the summer of 2020 by the Office of the Public Guardian, which is the Government agency tasked with oversight of Lasting Powers of Attorney.

The Office of the Public Guardian’s digital service is designed to be a more convenient way to share the details in the Lasting Power of Attorney with other organisations, such as doctors, banks, utility and insurance companies.

For instance, once registered there should be no need to go in to the bank branch to provide paper copies of Lasting Power of Attorney forms for verification.

At a time when branches are closing and opening times restricted, then the digital service can make a huge difference.

Currently the digital service is available for Lasting Papers of Attorney created and formally registered with the Office of the Public Guardian from September 2019 onwards.

The service allows you to invite organisations to view a summary of your Lasting Power of Attorney, keep track of which people or organisations have been given digital access to that document and see how people named on the Lasting Power of Attorney are using the service.

This latter aspect is particularly useful where you have not lost mental capacity but use a Lasting Power of Attorney for reasons of convenience; it gives you the peace of mind that your delegated authority is being used in the correct way.

It is important to note that Lasting Powers of Attorney need to be put in place before you lose mental capacity.

If you do not do so, your affairs must be overseen by the Court of Protection, which typically involves greater costs and delays. Lasting Powers of Attorney can be created to cover property and finance and, separately, health and welfare. In addition, you can also create Lasting Powers of Attorney to cover your business interests. This is useful if your preference is to delegate responsibility for business decisions to different people from those you might select to make decisions regarding, for example, personal health and care. Again, for farming businesses, this flexibility can be very helpful.

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