General Insurance Article - Royal London calls for more education on power of attorney


More education is needed on what people can and cannot do under a power of attorney as figures from the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) show a 45% increase in the number of investigations.

 According to an FOI request by Royal London there were 1729 investigations into the actions of attorneys and deputies in the 2017/2018 tax year – a sharp increase from 1199 for the 2016/17 tax year.

 Power of attorneys allow people to appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf should a time come when they lack the mental capacity to do so themselves. If the person has already lost mental capacity then the Court of Protection can appoint a deputy to make decisions on that person’s behalf.

 There are currently two different types of power of attorney - one covering property and financial affairs and another covering health and welfare decisions. They have proven popular with more than 2.3m registered with the Office of the Public Guardian by April 2017. These were split into almost 1.6m covering property and financial affairs and a further 732,000 relating to health and wellbeing.

 Commenting on the figures Helen Morrissey, personal finance specialist at Royal London said: “When done properly the attorney fulfils a vital role in safeguarding the interests of the person they are acting for. However, the sheer number of investigations into the actions of attorneys is concerning and action needs to be taken to curb poor practice. While there have been instances where people appointed as attorneys have used their position to steal money from the person they are acting for, there are also instances where the attorney has unwittingly stepped beyond the boundaries of their responsibilities or have neglected to keep up to date records explaining what they have done and why. People taking on these responsibilities need clearer guidance on what they can and cannot do.”

 The number of investigations into the actions of deputies is relatively small accounting for 69 investigations in 2016/17 and 82 for 2017/18. This is due to the fact there are more safeguards under the deputyship regime. This includes the requirement to file annual returns detailing what decisions have been made on an individual’s behalf and why.

 Royal London has launched a Good With Your Money guide on the key issues to be considered when acting as an attorney or deputy. These include:

 Making sure you are prepared to carry out the wishes of the person you have agreed to be an attorney for. For instance you may not agree with their views on their medical treatment and find it difficult to carry out their wishes at the appropriate time.
 The importance of keeping clear records of the decisions you have taken on behalf of someone else and the rationale behind them.
 What an attorney can and cannot do when it comes to gifting money to other parties.

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