The number of lasting powers of attorney (LPA) registered dropped by almost a quarter (23%) in the past year, slipping from 909,000 in 2019/20 to 695,000 in 2020/21.

Research from law firm Boodle Hatfield suggests the fall in numbers is a consequence of factors such as social distancing and self-isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

LPA applications must be signed in the correct order by a number of people. Applicants are not allowed to make copies of the document and digital signatures are not permitted. Signatures must be witnessed in person and not via video-conferencing platforms.

Geoffrey Todd, partner at Boodle Hatfield, said: “Now that restrictions have eased, anyone who had been putting off making an LPA should begin the process as soon as possible.”

LPAs give appointed individuals the authority to manage someone else’s finances, including paying bills and managing bank accounts should the person no longer have the mental capacity to make decisions themselves. Earlier this year it was reported that LPAs were taking longer than normal to be processed.

Todd added: “The pandemic has shown that it’s not just older people who become incapacitated. Sadly, many younger, previously healthy people who have contracted Covid have experienced sudden, debilitating illness… Having an LPA in place provides a safety net should the worst happen.”

In the absence of an LPA, an application would need to be made for an emergency deputyship. However, this process can be complicated and expensive and the incapacitated person would have no say over who would manage their affairs, nor the scope of their powers.

LPAs be used to cope with temporary periods of incapacity (such as injury or illness), as well as longer lasting conditions such as dementia.