Significant increase in lasting power of attorney registrations in the UK

The UK Family Court’s statistics show a significant increase in Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) registrations in 2023, passing a million for the first time.

The data, which spans October to December 2023, show a 37 per cent increase in registrations, attributed to a faster online application process and an ageing demographic.

In the UK, a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows an individual (the “donor”) to appoint one or more people (known as “attorneys”) to make decisions on their behalf, should they lose mental capacity in the future or no longer wish to make decisions for themselves. There are two main types of LPAs:

  1. Health and Welfare LPA: this allows the appointed attorney(s) to make decisions about the donor’s health care and welfare, including medical treatment, where they live and day-to-day care.
  2. Property and Financial Affairs LPA: this enables the attorney(s) to manage the donor’s finances and property, such as paying bills, managing bank accounts or selling property.

Office of the Public Guardian

The document must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian in England and Wales, or the equivalent bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland, before it can be used. They are critical legal tools, allowing people to designate trusted representatives to act on their behalf when they lack the mental ability to make decisions.

While the streamlined online application process makes it easier to register for lasting power of attorney, experts have warned that even a simple LPA can take up to 20 weeks to implement.

Probate has showed improved efficiency when compared to other grants of representation. From October to December 2023, probate grants were awarded in approximately 14 weeks after application submission, whereas letters of administration took approximately 23 weeks with a will and 17 weeks without.

Average time

Despite this progress, the average time for grant issuance remains rather long, indicating efforts to prioritise older cases.

Furthermore, digital probate grants accounted for 65 per cent of total grants given, with processing times of 10.2 weeks from application to submission and 7.9 weeks from document receipt to grant issuing. However, cases with delays had an average duration of 23 weeks to issue, showing systemic difficulties.

Concerns about probate delays motivated STEP, the global professional body that comprises lawyers, accountants, trustees and other practitioners that help families plan for their futures, to conduct a survey in January 2024.

Lack of senior professionals

The survey revealed that all respondents had had their cases cancelled as a result of such delays. Registry issues and a lack of senior professionals for assessment were identified as the key causes of application delays.

In response to growing concerns, the UK Justice Committee launched an inquiry in November 2023 to address probate delays and improve consumer protection. The investigation seeks to assess the assistance provided to beneficiaries, executors and the bereaved during the probate process.