Clarke Willmott partners Anthony Fairweather, Martin Pettingell and Elizabeth Smithers are based in our Bristol office and act as Professional Deputies for more than 50 clients. Anthony Fairweather is a panel deputy at the Court of Protection.
In this series of posts Caroline Featherby, a Trainee Solicitor who assists with the applications and administration for our clients, will look at the processes involved in an ongoing deputyship. She will reflect on the hurdles and obstacles faced by the team as well as the life changing decisions that are made to support someone who is unable to manage their own affairs.
It can feel like it takes a lifetime for the Court of Protection to make a final Order appointing a Deputy, after the endless form filling, correspondence and telephone calls.
The assumption is that once the Order has been granted, everything will fall into place so that the Deputy can manage the property and affairs of the client as set out in the terms of the Order. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
The first job for the solicitor is to check that the terms of the Order meet the needs of the client. For example, we recently needed to purchase a property for a client but when the Order was received, authority had not been provided. A further application had to be made to the Court to amend the original Order which, in this case, added a further two months to the process.
The next step is to set up a new deputy bank account so that the Deputy can access and manage the finances of the client. The following stages will then vary, depending on the needs of the client, their current circumstances and their level of capacity and communication skills. All of these factors will have a substantial effect on the process.
If the family and the client want all financial responsibility to be transferred to the Deputy, it is usual for the Deputy to arrange for all income payments (such as benefits, pension, rental or investment income etc.) to be paid into the deputy bank account; and for all outgoing payments to be transferred to the deputy bank account. The amounts can vary greatly, but for a highly dependant clients, all outgoing payments can be made from the Deputy account, including utility bills, rent, care and tax payments.
Organising these transactions can take time and may involve a number of attempts to contact various third parties. During this phase of the deputyship administration the biggest hurdle is communicating with the necessary institutions, in particular the banks and utility companies.
Many people have heard of an attorney, but few are aware of the term “Deputy” or what it means. Informing the relevant institutions about the appointment can therefore become quite complicated and, despite explaining that the account holder doesn’t have the mental capacity to manage their affairs, many will ask to speak to the account holder direct.
Notwithstanding these obstacles, the incoming and outgoing payments are eventually set up as required and the management of the client’s finances can then begin…
…to be continued.