As a Deputy appointed by the Court of Protection, it is our job to manage the day to day running of the finances, property and affairs of someone who lacks capacity to do so themselves. It is the Deputy’s responsibility to act in the best interests of our client at all times and safeguard his/her assets.
My role as a legal assistant for the Deputyship team here at Kingsley Napley consists of looking after all those financial tasks most of us do on a daily basis without even thinking. Paying the electricity bill or gas bill, council tax or rent - we can all simply pay online via mobile banking or speak to someone to set up a direct debit. But what if you can’t speak to someone or you don’t have the capacity to understand your finances or maybe you have a disability and this prevents you from having the cognitive skills to look after your own finances? This is where a Deputy can help, dealing with all those financial errands most of us take for granted and ensuring the safeguarding of your finances when the capacity to do this is lost.
The practical issues in managing property and affairs
There are many things to consider once an order from the Court is made and a Deputy, who may also be a lay Deputy, e.g. a family member, rather than a solicitor, has been appointed. A vital first task is to open a bank account so the Deputy can handle the income and expenditure for the client. A variety of payments will be made from this account including rent, bills, care, therapy and day to day living costs. We can also arrange for clients’ benefits to be sent to this account and ensure they receive their full entitlement.
Arranging all these payments can take some time and representatives at many companies can be very difficult to deal with for a Deputy. Dealing with transactions for care or therapy can be more straightforward but organising utility bills can be frustratingly hard. The company will often ask to speak to the account holder even after you have explained the situation. A lot of companies do not immediately recognise a Deputy’s authority or even know what a Deputy is and this can make explaining who we are and what we are doing even harder.
The Deputy will also deal with the client’s tax affairs, usually working in partnership with accountants, their investments, their property and any other financial matter. We also have a duty to the Office of the Public Guardian to report annually ensuring the client’s finances are being looked after appropriately and accounts are kept daily to show the income, expenditure and capital for each client.
The key is communication and a personal service
As an assistant in the Deputyship team, my relationship with clients and their families is very close as I am often the first point of contact when there is a problem. Even if things are running smoothly we still speak and communicate regularly to ensure our client is kept up to date. I am not just an e-mail contact or someone on the end of the phone who pays the bills. I am also, I hope, a friendly supportive voice who can help relieve some of the stress and burden of looking after financial matters when the ability to do so has been affected by disability, illness or serious injury.
No two clients are the same and it is therefore critical to provide a bespoke and personal service for each client and their family depending on their level of capacity and communication skills. Sensitivity and understanding are key to my ability to carry out this role successfully. Some of my clients are able to communicate yet may struggle to judge if something is in their best interest whereas others cannot communicate at all. Either way, together with my colleagues in our deputyship team, we are there to help and assist them and their families, always ensuring their best interests are considered, their finances are in order and the future is properly planned for.