Controversial plans to create a fully digital system for setting up lasting powers of attorney online have been put on hold so that more research can be carried out.
The government made the announcement following concerns raised by the Law Society that a fully digital system could be open to abuse.
A partial digital system was introduced last year but it still required users to print out and physically sign the appropriate forms.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had planned to remove this requirement so the whole process could be done online with the use of electronic signatures. However, the Law Society and several leading lawyers expressed concern that such a system would not be secure enough and could lead to elderly people being exploited by unscrupulous relatives.
The MoJ has now decided to shelve the proposals for the time being so that more research can be done to see if a secure and reliable online system can be developed.
The President of the Law Society, Andrew Caplen, welcomed the decision. He told the Law Gazette: “There are real problems to be overcome to ensure that vulnerable people are properly protected before electronic signatures can be accepted and we do not believe that government should move further until these have been satisfactorily addressed.”
However, the government remains committed to the value of LPAs. Justice Minister Simon Hughes said: “LPAs give people the peace of mind of knowing that if they ever lose capacity, the important decisions about their life can be taken by someone they have chosen and can trust. We are keeping the right safeguards in place to protect the public at what can be a vulnerable time in a person’s life.”
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