Putting Lasting Powers of Attorney in place is highly recommended. Indeed, many legal professionals consider these vital documents even more important than Wills.
It’s partly because the population is ageing, and partly the problems and extra expense that your family will encounter without them. Since Lasting Powers of Attorney are only valid during your lifetime, you might find that your loved ones are powerless to help you when you need them most.
That being said, if you’re looking to get LPAs, it’s worth being aware of some hidden and not-so-hidden costs.
First, let’s quickly cover the basics.
There are two LPA documents:
- Property and financial affairs
- Health and welfare.
I strongly recommend you get both. In my experience, I have come across families who did not take out of the LPAs and their children only found out about it later on. It would have been much easier to just get both at the same time.
Lasting Powers of Attorney are only valid whilst you’re still alive. After you die, they are no longer valid and your Will comes into force at that point.
There’s plenty more about LPAs in the free factsheet, which you can download here.
How to get LPAs
If you want to get LPAs, there are two ways of going about it:
- Use the online service at gov.uk
- Get a professional to do it for you
The procedure that must be followed is common to both methods.
First, the documents must be prepared and all the necessary signatures obtained.
Then, they’re sent off to a government department called the Office of the Public Guardian (let’s call them the OPG for short).
The OPG will check the documents and, once they’re satisfied, they’ll officially authenticate them and send them back to you.
In recent years, the lag between sending off documents and receiving them back again has grown longer and longer. Today, the average time is around five months. Don’t expect to get them back much sooner than that!
And it’s worth noting that you can’t use LPAs until you get them back, which can cause problems as we’ll see shortly.
So what are the extra or hidden costs you can incur?
Extra costs if you use the online service
When you send the forms to the OPG, you have to pay an application fee.
This is currently £82 per Lasting Power of Attorney. So if you have both documents, it will cost you £164 or £328 for a couple.
Note that it is not a “registration fee”. In other words, your application might be rejected.
How many applications are rejected? According to a 2022 article in This Is Money, around 1 in 20.
This is for all sorts of reasons and they can be trivial, such as the use of correcting fluid, pencil on the form instead of pen, or writing the date in the wrong way.
I’ve heard of applications being rejected for using the wrong colour of ink or a signature that didn’t quite match the name written underneath it.
If you want to know the most common reasons for rejection, the OPG lists the 10 most common mistakes on its website.
If you do get something wrong, the OPG might contact you and ask for further information. In the worst-case scenario, they’ll ask you to resubmit and charge you a fee for doing so.
The real cost here, though, is time. Do you really want to risk another 4 months passing by before you can use your LPAs? Remember that you cannot even make LPAs if you have lost capacity, so this may be a concern for relatives of older people.
The other pitfall comes if you didn’t select the best options when you filled out the forms.
There is no “right” answer to most of the questions, and you have to select the one that works best for your circumstances. But you need to totally understand how they’ll work in practice and what all the words mean. If you guess at the meaning, they may not work as intended.
The consequences for your family if you select the wrong options are considerable. The only alternative at this point is a costly application to the court for deputyship, a process involving solicitors. Costs can run into thousands of pounds and it can take months if not years to sort out.
So for all those reasons, unless you are completely familiar with all the terminology and what it all means, it’s a good idea to use a professional.
Extra costs if you use a professional
As with anyone else making Lasting Powers of Attorney, a legal professional has to send your LPAs to the Office of the Public Guardian to be registered.
And although it’s not all that common, some legal professionals charge extra for doing that. If they do, they should be clear and transparent with their pricing.
If they don’t include it, you would, of course, have to post them off yourself. But to me, anyway, this seems like paying someone to do half a job. Personally, I always register LPAs on my clients’ behalf.
It’s a similar story with collecting attorneys’ signatures. These all need to be witnessed and some legal professionals expect you to do this yourself. This obviously eats into your time and would cost you money in postage if they don’t live near you.
And you’ve still got to stay on top of it all. Wait too long before getting the completed forms back and sending them in and the OPG will query the delay. You have a few months to do it but after that, all bets are off!
As part of my service, I want to take the burden off your hands. I will either visit attorneys in person or post the forms to them if they live in a different town, to ensure everything is done in a timely manner.
Office of the Public Guardian application fee
When it comes to paying the £82 application fee per document, this is usually done in one of two different ways. The legal professional will either:
- Build it into the total price they quote you and pay the OPG themselves, or
- Quote the lower price and ask you to pay the OPG fee
Either way, the professional should be transparent with their pricing and let you know.
Bear in mind that however you get LPAs, whether you do it yourself of pay a professional you will always need to pay the £82 application fee. It will either be included in the overall price or you’ll have to pay it separately.
A professional service
So if you have to pay extra for the application fee, what are you paying a professional to do?
A legal professional’s fee covers their expert advice, their time for meeting and advising you, and then the admin involved in completing and printing out the forms on your behalf.
In my case, I’ll collect your signatures and those of your attorneys, do the witnessing myself if possible, and post the forms to the OPG.
In my experience of registering LPAs for clients in Bristol, most people who want to get LPAs are happy to pay someone else to do it them.
Preparing LPAs is something you can do it yourself. But you can also submit your own tax return, plumb in a dishwasher or change a tyre on your car. But many of us pay professionals for those things because we don’t want to take a risk.
There are there lots of legal terms involved in Lasting Powers of Attorney forms and most people understandably don’t want to make a mistake on these important documents.
You can certainly save money if you know what you’re doing. However, if you get them wrong, the consequences won’t be on you. They’ll be on your family who won’t be able to help you when the time comes.