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23 February 2016

A Victory For Common Sense And Consumer Choice

 

The Law Society of Northern Ireland has welcomed the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee of health and Justice to retain Enduring Powers of Attorney provision in Northern Ireland.Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is the legal authorisation to act on someone else's behalf in a legal or business matter.

It gives the attorney the power to dispose of property, deal with financial affairs, sign documents and make purchases on behalf of the individual if they become ill or unable to make decisions about their finances.

Under proposals outlined in the Mental Capacity Bill the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) suggested abolishing Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) and introducing Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) which cover property, affairs, health and welfare.

The Society, which represents solicitors throughout Northern Ireland, has consistently argued that proposals contained within the Mental Capacity Bill to abolish Enduring Powers of Attorney would adversely impact on the public particularly the most vulnerable, the elderly and the infirm.Moreover the Society believes that the complexity and cost of the new Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) put the public off by denying their ability to choose between the more expensive LPA or the cheaper EPA.

In 2015, an Ad Hoc Committee, made up of MLAs from Health and Justice Committees at the Assembly considered evidence in respect of the Mental Capacity Bill.

During its submission to the Committee the Society argued that the public must be provided with options when planning for their future which are affordable and suitable for their needs.

In January 2016 the Committee agreed to recommend retaining Enduring Powers of Attorney as part of the Mental Capacity Bill.

The Committees recommendation was accepted during the debate on the Mental Capacity Bill which took place in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 16th February 2016.

Commenting the President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, John Guerin said:

“The recommendation to retain EPA’s in Northern Ireland is a victory for common sense and consumer choice. It will ensure the public have the choices and flexibility to plan for their future needs.

The Society wishes to recognise the Minister for Health, Simon Hamilton, the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee, Alastair Ross MLA and Deputy Chair Patsy McGlone and the members of the Committee for their hard work and consideration of the evidence which was placed before them“




NOTES TO EDITOR:

  1. Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is the legal authorisation to act on someone else's behalf in a legal or business matter. It gives the attorney the power to dispose of property, deal with financial affairs, sign documents and make purchases on behalf of the individual if they become ill or unable to make decisions about their finances. 
  2. Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives an attorney the power to make decisions about the donor's care, treatment or finances when the donor has lost the capacity to do so. 
  3. Under proposals contained in the Mental Capacity Bill as drafted, (clause 110), no further EPAs could be made in Northern Ireland once the legislation came into operation.
  4. Experience from England and Wales has shown that the forms required for making an LPA are lengthy and complex and that, when legal services are employed, it typically costs the client around £500 plus VATin addition to a £110 registration fee that is payable immediately.
  5. The Law Society has consistently argued that the aforementioned high costs have discouraged people in England and Wales from making lasting powers of attorney and this would be replicated in Northern Ireland and would adversely impact on the public particularly the most vulnerable, the elderly and the infirm
  6. In contrast, the cost of making an enduring power of attorney is relatively modest at around £100 for legal services and a registration fee of £115 that is payable only when there is a need to bring the power of attorney into effect.
  7. The Law Society maintains that the modest costs and relatively straightforward nature of making an EPA means that there are fewer barriers to people making an EPA.