Deputies and attorneys must maintain duties during coronavirus isolation, says OPG

Monday, 20 April 2020
The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has advised deputies and attorneys in England and Wales that they cannot temporarily give up or delegate their role if they cannot visit the protected person during the coronavirus crisis, even if they themselves are in isolation or shielding because of government guidelines.

'During the coronavirus outbreak, your role and responsibilities as a deputy or attorney remain the same', the OPG’s guidance states. 'If you are self-isolating or shielding, you must continue to make decisions for [the protected person P]. You cannot ask anyone else to make those decisions for you.' However, attorneys and deputies can make a decision and ask someone else to carry it out.

Attorneys do not have to step down just because they cannot visit the protected person for the moment. However, they can permanently disclaim their role, and a court-appointed deputy can apply to the court to permanently end the deputyship.

The OPG has also issued guidance for people who have not yet granted a lasting power of attorney (LPA) but who may need someone to look after their affairs during the outbreak. It advises against organising house visits to get the LPA signed and witnessed, and suggests posting the form to the signatories instead. It notes that a neighbour can witness a signature on the doorstep or over the garden fence, or through a closed window, for example. Each attorney and replacement attorney's signature must also be witnessed as well as the donor's.

The OPG's guidance also suggests other measures people can take to allow someone else to manage their property and financial affairs or healthcare while they are waiting for an LPA to be registered. One possibility, it says, is a third-party mandate authorising someone else to carry out transactions on the person's bank account. It is also possible to make a general power of attorney to authorise someone to manage one's financial affairs or do certain things on one's behalf, but this cannot be used once mental capacity has been lost. Another possibility is to make an advance statement setting out preferences regarding future care after losing capacity, but this, says the OPG, would not be legally binding.

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