The Powers of Attorney Act has been passed by Parliament, modernising the process for making and registering lasting powers of attorney (LPAs). The legislation allows for LPAs to be drawn up completely online and makes it easier to access copies by allowing CILEX Lawyers to certify them for the first time, a change that will come into force in two months’ time.
Amending the Powers of Attorney Act 1971 is expected to generate greater competition in the legal services market and help to tackle backlogs at the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) which currently advises allowing up to 20 weeks to process an application.
It follows a campaign by CILEX (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) to remedy the anomaly that until now saw CILEX Lawyers able to draft LPAs but prevented them from certifying copies. It is the result of a private members’ bill introduced last year by Conservative MP Stephen Metcalfe and supported by the Ministry of Justice.
Speaking in Parliament at the Bill’s second reading in December 2022, Mr Metcalfe said: “We have come a long way since 1971; it is more than half a century since that Act came into force. Chartered legal executives are allowed to provide legal services under the Legal Services Act 2007 and now provide many of the same legal services as solicitors. It is therefore completely right that chartered legal executives have the ability to certify copies.”
Justice minister Lord Bellamy, speaking in the House of Lords in June, said the change was “not only correct in itself but is part of the government’s general policy of facilitating CILEX members to carry out tasks and functions that other legal professionals, solicitors and barristers can carry out,” and that it was part of “the government’s overall policy of widening the pool of qualified lawyers so there is absolute availability of qualified lawyers”.
This is the latest in a series of legislative and policy changes that CILEX has achieved in recent months to remove barriers and secure equality of opportunity for its members. In June, amendments to the Judicial Appointments Order 2008 opened up more senior judicial roles to CILEX Lawyers and in July the Institute secured parity of funding between apprentices qualifying as solicitors and as CILEX Lawyers, for the first time.
CILEX Chair Professor Chris Bones says: “This latest legislative change brings the LPA process into the modern, digital age while implementing safeguards to protect the vulnerable from exploitation. It also corrects a longstanding and nonsensical anomaly, empowering our members by allowing them to certify copies of powers of attorney.
“It once again reflects government recognition of the important role CILEX has to play in the justice system and the specialist skills and fresh perspectives our members bring. We are making significant breakthroughs that will see CILEX Lawyers benefit from the same opportunities as their solicitor counterparts, removing barriers to their career progression and at the same time giving consumers access to a wider range of legal services providers.”