FCA encouraging online PoA's
In a recent proposal the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has recommended that Powers of Attorney should no longer require a 'wet' signature and instead everything be done electronically.
This raises concerns not least because there has been a rise recently in the number of cases coming to court where people appointed as Attorney's have abused their position and defrauded those who they represent. This recommendation by the FCA could make the defrauding of an elderly person easier.
The recommendation is made in a discussion paper to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), the body responsible for administering Powers of Attorney.
If the OPG did want to implement such a change it would require an Act of Parliament to bring the change into law. It is understood that the OPG have been considering such a move themselves but as yet no specific legislation is proposed.
From a practical point of view the proposal fits with the increasing use of online applications that are being made. However, it's clear that some mechanism would have to be put in place to safeguard those who may be vulnerable. It doesn't take too much to imagine a situation where a Power of Attorney could be applied for without a person's consent, especially if they have difficulties in understanding what is being proposed and the rights it gives to those who are named as Attorney's.
Whilst the requirement for a wet signature can create practical difficulties there is no doubt that it offers a higher degree of protection than is available if everything is done electronically.
The other point to make is that many elderly people are still not keen on using online applications and could therefore be dissuaded from preparing a Power of Attorney if the only option was to do it online.