New Zealand Law Society - Enduring powers of attorney regime failing to protect the vulnerable

Enduring powers of attorney regime failing to protect the vulnerable

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Laws to protect people if they become mentally incapacitated are failing, the New Zealand Law Society says.

And proposed changes to make it easier and cheaper to establish those protections are unlikely to work, Law Society spokesperson Dr Allan Cooke has told Parliament's Government Administration select committee.

The Law Society's submission on the Statutes Amendment Bill focuses on Part 21 which covers enduring powers of attorney.

Under the Protection of Personal Property Act 1988 a person can set up an enduring power of attorney (EPA), appointing someone else (an "attorney") to act on their behalf, if they become mentally incapable.

Safeguards were added to the Act in 2007 to better protect people setting up EPAs and prevent potential abuse, Dr Cooke says.

However, those amendments have created problems. It has become significantly more complex and expensive to set up an EPA, and there has been a marked drop in the number of EPAs created since 2007, he says.

"That means an increasing number of people, for reasons of cost, have not made their own decision about who should be their substituted decision-maker if they lose their mental capacity. "

The Law Society has recommended that key parts of the EPA regime be simplified to increase protection for mentally incapable persons without adding unnecessary cost and complexity.