Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Powers of attorney and coronavirus

In this section you'll find information and updates related to coronavirus that are relevant to the law on powers of attorney.

The UK's response to coronavirus is changing regularly and often very quickly. While we'll continue to make every effort to keep this page up to date, there may be short periods where what you read here is not the latest information available. Where possible we've tried to provide links to official government resources, so you can check the current situation.

Registering powers of attorney

Due to increased demand and staff disruption, it may take longer to register powers of attorney or get a response to queries.

England & Wales

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) will continue to register lasting powers of attorney and is aiming to do so within 40 working days, although they do warn that delays could occur.

Scotland

In Scotland, the OPG has said they won't be able to register continuing and/or welfare powers of attorney within the usual 30 working-day target. However, they will be prioritising urgent powers of attorney and guardianship orders during the pandemic and believe they can continue to process these within their usual 5 working-day target.

Urgent enquiries should be marked URGENT and emailed to them. See the OPG website for more details.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Office of Care and Protection is not currently processing or registering enduring powers of attorney, or processing new or existing applications for Controllership.

Signing powers of attorneys

Social distancing has made it more difficult to follow the correct procedure for signing powers of attorney and other official documents.

England & Wales

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) must be signed by the donor in the presence of one witness (if you – the donor – is signing it yourself), or two witnesses (if someone is signing on your behalf). As soon as possible after that, the person certifying that you still have mental capacity (the certificate provider) must sign the certificate on the LPA form. Then each attorney must sign in the presence of a witness.

Any witnessing of signatures via video calls (e.g. Skype, Zoom, Facetime, etc) will not comply with the strict signature requirements for LPAs and this will remain a problem until there is a change in the law or official guidance clarifies what would be accepted as valid methods of executing LPAs. Electronic signatures are also not currently allowed either.

You and your attorneys will still have to find suitable witnesses, while ensuring that the social distancing rules are adhered to.

Finding a certificate provider might be a challenge as this person cannot be a member of your family and must be someone that has known you for at least 2 years or has a relevant professional qualification. The certificate provider has to certify that you understand the scope and purpose of the LPA and that there is no undue pressure on you to make it. If they're able to do this via a video call, this would be acceptable. You would still need to get the physical LPA form to them for them to sign.

Scotland

The Law Society of Scotland has an article on their website (scroll down to 'Power of attorney – updated 8 April') in which they set out the best practice for signing powers of attorney during the pandemic. It confirms that signing would be possible via video calls if certain conditions are met.

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