Lawyer backs power of attorney orders despite ex-judge's concerns

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A lawyer has sounded a note of caution after a retired judge raised concerns about legal arrangements which allow people to take decisions on behalf of vulnerable relatives.

Former judge Denzil Lush has warned that power of attorney (LPA) orders can be abused and have a ''devastating'' effect on families.

He said there tended to be a "lack of transparency and accountability".

But solicitor Alastair Collett says LPAs are the "best option" for many people.

Mr Lush, who was a senior judge in the specialist Court of Protection - where issues relating to people unable to make decisions for themselves are analysed, spoke out earlier this month and said he would never sign an LPA himself.

Mr Collett, a trust and charity law specialist who is a partner at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, said LPAs were normally not abused.

"Denzil Lush is talking about what the Court of Protection looks like from the inside, not the outside," he said.

"LPAs only come before a judge when things have gone wrong, and with the vast majority of LPAs there is no abuse."

He added: "LPAs aren't perfect, but for many people they are far and away the best option, particularly if legal advice is taken when they are made.

"The problems need to be addressed by improving the way LPAs work, not by throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

Another lawyer echoed Mr Collett's thoughts.

Susan Sherry, legal director of law firm Hill Dickinson's private client team, said LPAs were better that previous arrangements.

"Retired Senior Judge Denzil Lush has highlighted pitfalls surrounding LPAs in his new book citing lack of safeguards in the LPA system.," she said.

"However the new system - introduced by the Ministry of Justice in 2005 under the Mental Capacity Act - represents a considerable improvement on the previous regime of Enduring Power of Attorney, providing increased security, flexibility and access online."