Solicitor who certified LPAs “as a favour” is fined £6,000.
Who knew there could be so much risk in acting as a certificate provider? Well, as the linked article shows, one solicitor found out the hard way. I find this such a strange thing for a legal professional to have done. For one, we do not "just sign" documents of any sort. Our signature means something and so, as solicitors, we tend to be wary of signing anything we have not prepared, even for friends.
Secondly, it is clear to me that this solicitor did not work in private client or understand the risks that come with preparing Lasting Powers of Attorney. I am a huge advocate for LPAs; they can save so much stress and time if a person is later unable to manage their affairs. However, working in this field it is all too common to come across stories or cases where attorneys have abused their powers.
The role of a certificate provider in preparing LPAs is to act as an independent, impartial party. The certificate provider confirms to the office of the public guardian that the donor has capacity, understands the document and the power they are giving and is entering into it of their own free will. To act as a certificate provider you should either be someone who has known the donor for several years, and so could identify if they are not themselves or if they are appointing an unsuitable attorney, or a professional who has experience assessing a person's mental capacity. In order to do this the professional would need to have a long conversation with the donor, to check that they understand what they are doing, why they are doing it and that they have the capacity to enter into the LPA. For this reason, most solicitors will not act as a certificate provider where they have not personally prepared the documents and taken the donor's instructions themselves.
A cautionary tale to be sure, but also an excellent reminder as to why certificate providers are so important, and not a role to be taken lightly.
If you have any queries regarding LPAs, please contact Ashley Minott on 01494 893518.