A professional deputy is a practising solicitor with several years of experience in acting for vulnerable clients. They manage the property and affairs of both adults and children who are deemed to be mentally incapable of making their own financial decisions. With children, it is on the basis that they would not be considered to have sufficient mental capacity to manage their finances by the age of 18 and it is likely that they would have received a compensation award as a result of a medical negligence action.
A professional deputy will have a thorough understanding of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and adhere to the deputyship standards issued by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) which can be found here.
They are appointed by the Court of Protection and can be a panel deputy (also known as a ‘Deputy of Last Resort’) or a solicitor of your own choice. Choice is crucial. It is essential that you work with the right person who takes time to listen to you and explain a solution to financial issues.
What does a professional deputy do?
We do not get involved in making financial decisions that a person can make themselves. For instance a person may be able to manage a modest amount of money without our involvement. However, generally we are involved in the routine day to day finances such as paying utilities and invoices for therapy, acting as an employer and paying carers, arranging the payment of tax and making sure you have enough money to meet your needs.
We also get involved in the purchase and sale of property as well as adapting it and working with a team of experts such as architects, surveyors, occupational therapists and VAT experts to ensure the best possible financial outcome.
As a professional deputy we will work alongside a financial adviser to ensure that your money is safely and securely invested but also accessible to meet your needs.
In respect to children and young adults under the age of 25 we are involved in ensuring that your Education and Healthcare Plan fully meets your need and provides you with the therapies that you are entitled to. In this respect we work alongside our education solicitors and the family to achieve the best outcome.
As you can see we take a broad and far reaching approach!
How are professional deputies supervised?
Professional deputies are supervised by the OPG which are the administrative arm of the Court of Protection. The deputy is expected to complete annual accounts as well as an estimate of their annual costs for the OPG to review. They are expected to always act in good faith and in the best interests of their client. The OPG can send a court visitor to discuss with the deputy what policies and procedures they have in place to protect their clients’ interests.
How do they charge?
The OPG have issued a leaflet on professional deputyship fees which can be found at here.
Professional deputyship hourly rates can be found here. These are set by the Government and have not changed since 2010. We operate under Reading rates, which are National Band 1 and considerably less expensive than London rates, making us extremely cost effective.
Each year a professional deputy can either accept “fixed costs” as set out here or ask for the Senior Court Costs Office (SCCO) to assess their costs. The SCCO will look at not only the hourly rate of the fee earner but also the time taken to complete that work to ensure that it is not only fair and reasonable but also proportionate to the value of the assets. We always prefer to have our costs assessed by an independent person.
Top 7 reasons why you should appoint a professional deputy
- Peace of mind and knowing that someone with considerable experience will be managing the finances in a professional way so that the family can concentrate on care and welfare issues.
- All legal fees are overseen independently by the SCCO but in particular the deputy will work with the family to keep costs as low as possible.
- Professional deputies quite often have an extensive network of other contacts such as care managers, therapists, accountants and financial advisers so that the best team can be put in place to assist a client in a holistic way.
- Professional deputies will be able to make savings in other areas that a lay deputy may not be aware of such as Council Tax reductions.
- Professional deputies will have a working knowledge of other inter-related financial matters such as State Benefits, tax and VAT exemptions for equipment.
- Professional deputies will adhere to the deputyship standards as set down by the OPG who also provide independent supervision.
- A professional deputy will not only have a security bond in place which is a form of insurance protecting the financial assets of the person concerned but they will also have their own professional indemnity insurance.
Clients sometimes worry that a Professional Deputy will “take over”. Boyes Turner’s professional deputies are very experienced and will work with a family to ensure that they always act in the client’s best interests. In any event, under Section 4 of the MCA 2005 when acting in best interests a deputy must take into account “if practical and appropriate” the views of ‘anyone engaged in caring for the person or interested in their welfare’. More often than not this will be the immediate family. A professional deputy will know this but it is helpful for families to be aware of this when instructing a solicitor for it gives them the assurance that they too have a voice when decisions are made on behalf of their loved one.
We are regularly appointed by the Court of Protection to act as a professional deputy for individuals who lack capacity. We have particular expertise in managing significant awards of compensation either through medical negligence or through an acquired brain injury but equally our experience means we are adept at managing the finances of people with dementia or other age related issues that affect capacity.
Each case is individual. We take the time to get to know our clients and their family first. We appreciate how stressful our client’s lives are and we will work with you to manage finances and support you in your decision making. Even though we concentrate on finances we never forget the human side to our work. It is not just about finances but also about mutual respect that leads to trust and confidence in what we do.