Report on Lasting Powers of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (“LPA”) is a type of power of attorney.  They were introduced in October 2007 to replace Enduring Powers of Attorney (“EPA”).  They only replaced EPAs from 1 October 2007 and any EPA existing before that date was not affected and remained valid.

An LPA allows anyone to delegate to a person of their choice the power to make decisions about their personal affairs, such as healthcare, and also their financial affairs and property.

The results of the report revealed that a large proportion of the people surveyed had little knowledge of LPAs. Around a quarter said they knew a great deal or a fair amount about LPAs, while almost half either knew nothing about them or had in fact never heard of them.

When they were told about LPAs, about a third implied they would be interested at some point in the future while 61% were not interested. Those most likely to be interested were people who knew someone who had an LPA or those who knew someone who had mental capacity problems.

A high proportion of those expressing an interest still said they would be unlikely to do so in the next 12 months.  Just over a third thought they would wait until they were actually diagnosed with a mental health problem before applying.  However, the survey revealed that whilst undiagnosed participants thought a mental health problem would act as a trigger, participants who were recently diagnosed did not agree, stating that it is much more emotionally difficult to accept than others might think.

The research showed that experience of a friend or family member losing capacity was also more strongly associated with interest in LPAs than demographic factors. Participants who had acted as an attorney or a deputy, and people who knew someone who had lost capacity, tended to be the most positive about the benefits of have an LPA.

The report also notes a number of reasons why people will not consider having an LPA.  Some might be overcome if people were provided with more information about the benefits but some problems appear to be more deep seated.  The report states:

“Attitudinal and emotional barriers which mean that people focus on the negative aspects of the issue rather than considering the potential positive benefits of LPA are also likely to be difficult to overcome. Losing capacity is not something people want to consider and so they will attempt to put it off for as long as possible, hoping they will never need to deal with it. There are also cultural issues at play such as superstition and considering discussion of losing capacity as taboo, both of which encourage lack of engagement with LPA. Such views are deep-seated and may be difficult to change.”

The full report can be seen at http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/research-and-analysis/opg/OPG_LPA_Ipsos-MORI_Nov_13.pdf[