The Ministry of Justice has launched the Power of Attorney Fee Refund Scheme for those who were overcharged for their arrangements between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2017. Those eligible were able to start applying for a partial refund from 1 February using an online service run by the Office of the Public Guardian.
A lasting or enduring power of attorney is a legal document which allows a person (the donor) to nominate a trusted friend or relative to take responsibility for their affairs if they lose mental capacity. There are two types of power of attorney as one covers health and welfare and the other property and financial matters. Once drawn up, both can be registered though the Office of the Public Guardian online.
Prior to 1 April 2013, the cost of registering a power of attorney was £110. After this point many more people than expected began applying for powers of attorney, resulting in the service becoming more streamlined. However, despite the drop in operating costs, the price of the power of attorney was not reduced which meant that the Ministry of Justice ending up making a profit – something which is strictly not allowed. On 1 April 2017 the price of registering was duly decreased to £82, but by this point approximately 1.8 million people had been overcharged and the government had built up a £89 million surplus.
Owing to this oversight, the donor or attorney is now able to claim a refund. The amount that a person can claim depends on when they made the arrangement and ranges from £37 to £54, including 0.5 percent interest. This sum will then be paid back into the donor’s account within 12 weeks. The people who paid a reduced fee- those with an income less than £12,000 per annum or on benefits- will be entitled to half of the refund. Only one form needs to be completed for each donor even if there are multiple powers of attorney, and it is possible to make a claim even if the power of attorney has already been used. If the donor does not have a UK bank account or has died, or if you’re a court-appointed deputy, the claim has to be made over the phone. If the claim is rejected, it is possible to appeal the decision.
With a steadily greying population, instances of dementia are on the rise leaving the elderly in a very vulnerable position should they lose mental capacity before they have their affairs in order. This has led to a huge increase over the last few years of people registering powers of attorney. In the first half of 2017, there were 322,573 registrations of powers of attorney: a 18 percent increase from the previous year. However, there are also concerns that even powers of attorney do not protect the elderly from being duped. Last year, the former Court of Protection Judge Denzil Lush revealed that the majority of those abusing the arrangements are family members- principally sons and daughters. Aware of these growing risks, the Office of the Public Guardian and the overburdened courts will have to be extra vigilant to ensure that the rights and dignity of the elderly are being respected.