A summary of key legal updates for the Private Client sector over the past week is as follows.

Renunciation of professional executorship

This recent High Court case involved a law firm that refused to renounce acting as professional executor. The residuary beneficiary had asked them to step down on the basis that the estate was simple enough for her to administer. The litigation took two years as the law firm twice appealed notwithstanding the relatively modest value of the estate (£832,000). Master Kaye commented in the judgment: “The appellants should, quite frankly, not have adopted the position they did and they have continued, quite disproportionately in my view, to seek to cling on to office when it is perfectly obvious that they should not do so.” The law firm was ordered to pay £25,000 in legal fees. The case is a reminder that when considering whether to take up an appointment, a professional executor should undertake a balancing exercise to decide what is in the best interests of the estate; any financial advantage in keeping the work should be secondary. Daughter wins legal battle to administer mother’s estate (todayswillsandprobate.co.uk); Giving it up | Feature | Communities - The Law Society

LPAs and OPG performance

The Office of the Public Guardian ("OPG") has launched its business plan for 2021/22. Priorities include promoting Lasting Powers of Attorney ("LPAs) to all parts of society and a greater digitisation of services, including online access to LPAs for third parties. The digitisation of LPAs is discussed further in the MOJ consultation "Modernising LPAs" launched on 20 July 2021. Whilst there are many positive statistics in the plan, those that stand out are that the average clearance time for an LPA is currently 58 days (the target being 40), and only 56% of calls to the OPG are answered within five minutes (the target being 95%).  Office of the Public Guardian business plan: 2021 to 2022 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Tax scams and Covid-19

Tax-related scams have doubled over the past year due to the pandemic and HMRC have just released new guidelines for identifying scams and reporting suspicious activity to the authorities. hmrc-scams-briefing-aug-2021.pdf (step.org)

General powers of attorney

The below article discusses the ease with which a general power of attorney can be created by deed under s.10 of the Powers of Attorney Act 1971 and how this makes them vulnerable to abuse and forgery. A power of attorney in the form of the statutory template gives the attorney "the authority to do on behalf of the donor anything which he can lawfully do by an attorney", meaning a fraudster can draw on a bank account, sell stocks and shares, raise money on a mortgage and sell real property. The author compares them with similar powers under European civil laws which are required to be notarised before use and calls on the law to be reformed as "possibly the most ingenuously dangerous piece of legislation to be found on the Statute Book of England and Wales." Solicitors Journal - Donor beware: Section 10 is not your friend