When a Professional Deputy is appointed by the Court of Protection to manage another person’s property and affairs they are permitted to be paid for carrying out their duties in accordance with the Deputyship Order.
A Deputy is allowed to claim the reasonable expenses they may incur when carrying out their duties and if the Court allows in the Order; they are also allowed to claim payment for the work they carry out due to the level of expertise and skill that they must apply when carrying out their duties.
The Order will usually explain how a Deputy can charge for the work they do. Usually they can claim a fixed rate or if they wish to claim costs above this they can have a detailed assessment of their fees by the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO). The Deputy must submit these annually and the Court will assess whether the costs are reasonable and proportionate. This means that when scrutinising the fees incurred the SCCO will consider for each piece of work the hourly rate of the fee earner and the time taken to complete that work to ensure that it is not only fair but also affordable given the value of the person’s assets.
It is very important to check the terms of an Order appointing a Professional Deputy as this will explain whether the Deputy is allowed to claim professional fees for the work they undertake and how they must claim them.
Deputies are also required to report to the Office of the Public Guardian every year to explain the important decisions they have made and this includes a requirement to provide a breakdown of financial income and expenditure. Professional deputies are also required to provide details of their charges for the year as well as an estimate of the next year’s fees.
The Office of the Public Guardian and Senior Courts Costs Office have prepared a practice note explaining how they will work together to ensure that deputies act in their client’s best interest and comply with the Court’s Order. The guidance can be found here.
What can the Court do if the Deputy does not follow the rules?
If a Deputy claims fees from their client which are not authorised by the Court of Protection then an application can be made for reimbursement of those fees. Consideration should be given as to whether interest can also be claimed for a reasonable rate of return that could be expected if the funds were invested rather than taken without authority.
In a recent case at Boyes Turner, Ruth Meyer and Alexander Wright were asked to make an application to take over the management of a client’s property and affairs. When making their initial enquiries it came to their attention that there had been two professional Deputies in place at the previous firm, the first was a sole Deputy and second had acted jointly and severally with the client’s father. The first Deputy had charged fees for their work but when the appointment Order was considered it was noted that there was no provision in the Order allowing them to do this. The second Deputy acting jointly and severally with the client’s Father had claimed fees which were above the fixed rate but they had not applied to have their fees assessed on an annual basis. A significant amount of money had been taken from the client over a seven year period.
The case was concluded with Ruth Meyer and Alexander Wright being appointed as the client’s new Deputies to manage his Property and Affairs. In addition, the previous Deputies were ordered to reimburse the client for all fees charge by the first Deputy, all fees charged by the second Deputy over and above the fixed fee rate during those years as well as compound interest on those sums.
Alexander Wright said:
“The order sets out if a Deputy can charge. The Court Rules set out how a Deputy can charge. In this case we had two professional Deputies that ignored both, and the result was that we got all unauthorised fees back, plus interest. This outcome is an excellent result for our client”