Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Powers of attorney and coronavirus

In this section you'll find information and updates related to coronavirus that are relevant to the law on powers of attorney.

The UK's response to coronavirus is changing regularly and often very quickly. While we'll continue to make every effort to keep this page up to date, there may be short periods where what you read here is not the latest information available. Where possible we've tried to provide links to official government resources, so you can check the current situation.

Registering powers of attorney

The impact of COVID on service delivery in the public sector is still evident. It may take longer to register powers of attorney or get a response to queries.

England & Wales

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is experiencing delays in registering lasting powers of attorney.

Scotland

In Scotland, the OPG is also experiencing delays in registering continuing and/or welfare powers of attorney. You can get an idea of the current timescales by viewing their latest update for PoAs to be processed this week.

However, they do have an expedited registration service available for urgent powers of attorney: you'll need to complete an Expedited PoA registration request form.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Office of Care and Protection is again processing and registering enduring powers of attorney, but are having difficulties dealing with queries.

Signing powers of attorneys

Self-isolation rules could make it more difficult to follow the correct procedure for signing powers of attorney and other official documents. This may be a problem if the need for a power of attorney is particularly urgent.

England & Wales

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) must be signed by the donor in the presence of one witness (if you – the donor – are signing it yourself), or two witnesses (if someone is signing on your behalf). As soon as possible after that, the person certifying that you still have mental capacity (the certificate provider) must sign the certificate on the LPA form. Then each attorney must sign in the presence of a witness.

Any witnessing of signatures via video calls (e.g. Skype, Zoom, Facetime, etc) will not comply with the strict signature requirements for LPAs and this will remain a problem until there is a change in the law or official guidance clarifies what would be accepted as valid methods of executing LPAs. Electronic signatures are also not currently allowed.

Finding a certificate provider while self-isolating might also be a challenge as this person cannot be a member of your family and must be someone that has known you for at least 2 years or has a relevant professional qualification. The certificate provider has to certify that you understand the scope and purpose of the LPA and that there is no undue pressure on you to make it. If they're able to do this via a video call, this would be acceptable. You would still need to get the physical LPA form to them for them to sign.

If the delay won't cause a problem, it'll be much easier for you to wait until after your self-isolation period has ended before trying to sign your LPA.

Scotland

The Law Society of Scotland has an article on their website (scroll down to 'Power of attorney – updated 8 April 2020) in which they set out the best practice for signing powers of attorney during the pandemic. It confirms that signing would be possible via video calls if certain conditions are met.

Again, though, it's always better to sign in the usual way if you're able to.