Lawyers are ‘overcharging’ for lasting power of attorney applications
Legal costs in applying for lasting power of attorney provisions are prohibitive for many elderly and vulnerable clients, the profession’s watchdog has found.
In a report on legal services for clients with mental health issues and dementia, the Legal Services Board found that a significant number of clients surveyed “complained about affordability, particularly the cost of a solicitor when completing applications for lasting power of attorney”.
More generally, the board, which oversees the regulation of all legal professions in England and Wales, said that lawyers need to communicate in simpler language to the country’s increasing group of clients with dementia. A lack of understanding led clients with dementia to be dissatisfied with the contact they had with lawyers, said the board’s researchers.
“Many felt that more could be done to communicate legal issues in plain English,” said the board’s report, “as well as providing plain English written information before and after face-to-face consultations.” According to the board’s advice, when dealing with vulnerable clients, lawyers should provide “clear information available before the meeting, so consumers have an opportunity to consider what they want to do”.
Legal advisers should also offer home visits and “provide a written record of the meeting which consumers can refer to for reference and clarification, including any follow up actions for them to complete”.
David Sinclair of the group Solicitors for the Elderly welcomed the advice. He said the report’s findings highlighted “an important part of the legal sector. “Our accreditation is designed to ensure professionals have a wealth of experience and training to help put older and vulnerable people at ease when dealing with complex legal issues, and we encourage any increased awareness and improvement of accessibility for these consumers,” he said.