Powers of Attorney are valuable tools which allow decisions to be made on behalf of those who are unable to manage their financial affairs. They could be in the form of Enduring Powers of Attorney, Lasting Powers of Attorney or Deputy Court Orders.
However, attorneys under these different regimes often have difficulties in practice trying to use the Powers of Attorney as the various financial organisations with whom they need to deal will have their own different procedures to enable the Power of Attorney to apply to the particular account. There may be different forms, different identification requirements for the attorneys and some organisations may request to see the original Power of Attorney document whilst others are satisfied with a certified copy or even a copy.
The particular representative of the financial organisation may also be uncertain as to the nature of the document being presented, for example, in respect of Lasting Powers of Attorney there have been three different versions of the forms since they were introduced in 2007 and therefore the representative may not automatically recognise the document.
It is therefore extremely helpful that the Office of the Public Guardian has issued a new guide to help staff at those financial organisations; “Supporting customers who do not make their own decisions” which can be found here.
The guidance covers Lasting Powers of Attorney, Enduring Powers of Attorney and deputies appointed under Deputy Court Orders.
It is intended that this guidance will help to ensure uniformity in approach by the various organisations and ensure a smoother process for attorneys carrying out their day to day activities on behalf of donors.
In particular the guidance addresses the question of whether the original document needs to be seen by the financial organisation and it advises staff that there is nothing in law that says they must see the original and that photocopies, scanned images and certified office copies can be alternatives to the original and accepting these may assist the attorney or deputy as they will probably have a number of organisations to deal with and delay could be caused by requiring sight of the original document.
The guidance also gives helpful examples of how the staff are able to check the authenticity of the Power of Attorney or other legal document, how to report concerns about attorneys’ actions and dealing with other matters set out in the legal document such as attorneys acting jointly and the donor’s preferences and restrictions.
This guidance is to be welcomed and should be a very useful resource for financial organisations but it may also be of help to attorneys and deputies who will be able to draw it to the attention of the organisation if there is any confusion regarding the terms on which they can act.
For more information on any of the above, or how we can help you, please contact Alice Clewes, or call 0191 232 8345.