The Financial Conduct Authority has said the requirement for a paper and pen signature when applying for Power of Attorney should be scrapped, making it easier to apply.
Instead it wants the Office for Public Guardian, the public body which processes applications, to let people fill in online forms which would not require a wet signature.
The FCA has called for Lasting Powers of Attorney to be created online without the need for a ‘wet’ signature.In my view, the lack of signatures on a physical document could lead to an increase in financial abuse of elderly or vulnerable adults.The Office of the Public Guardian has introduced an online system to prepare and register LPAs, but currently this requires the form to be printed and signed by the donor before it can be registered.If, in the future, the ‘signature’ can be made by the click of a mouse there is an obvious risk that someone could ‘sign’ without the donor’s knowledge even if digital safeguards such as passwords are required. This will increase the risk for financial abuse in a system which some already view as flawed.Last month Denzil Lush, the retired Senior Judge of the Court of Protection warned that he would not create an LPA himself as he believes it gives away too much power and is too open to abuse. I believe LPAs are useful for many people, and if the risks are carefully thought through when the form is created steps can be taken to minimise the opportunities for financial abuse, but the risk can never be removed completely.A move towards creating an LPA by a few clicks on the computer could reduce the degree to which people really consider their options to protect themselves.The Lasting Power of Attorney can give another person total control of your property and financial affairs. In a world where we frequently tick a box online to accept standard terms and conditions the act of physically signing on the dotted line focuses the mind more on the terms of the document and its consequences.I hope that the FCA’s suggestion is not implemented, but if it is, there must be a robust method to safeguard against fraud and financial abuse of elderly or vulnerable people.