What is a professional deputy?
If a friend or relative loses mental capacity and they had not completed a Lasting Power of Attorney, it may be necessary to apply for deputyship from the Court of Protection to manage their financial and property affairs. This would allow you to make decisions on their behalf and act as their “lay deputy”.
A person usually loses capacity through the development of dementia in their old age, or by way of a personal injury or a medical negligence. The latter in particular, may mean it is more suitable for a professional deputy, through a firm of solicitors, to be appointed to act for them. It may also be appropriate to instruct a professional deputy if there are family disputes, pressure on the existing relationships, or where family members live far away.
A professional deputy will have a comprehensive understanding of how deputyships are run, the court procedures involved, the standards issued by the Office of the Public Guardian & also an in depth understanding of the Mental Capacity Act.
Section 1 – What do professional deputies do?
The amount of involvement a professional deputy has in the client’s life depends on the individual circumstances. Deputies can be involved in day to day decisions, such as paying invoices, but they can also be involved in more complex decisions, such as acting as an employer for the client’s carers, working alongside independent financial advisers to invest funds, and completing tax returns.
Deputies can be involved in buying and selling properties on the client’s behalf, as well as adapting properties to suit the client’s individual needs.
Aside from pure financial matters, Deputies will liaise with case managers, local authorities, therapists, and health care teams to ensure the client has the best resources and opportunities available.
Section 2 – Why choose a professional deputy over a lay deputy?
It some cases it may be appropriate to appoint a close family member or friend to be a lay deputy; professional Deputies aren’t compulsory.
However, on occasions where the client has received, or is expecting to receive a large sum of money as a result of a personal injury claim or a medical negligence claim, the Court of Protection has been reluctant to appoint a lay deputy to manage the funds. This is partially due to the fact that there has been a rise in situations where families have been negligent with the client’s funds, resulting in financial abuse. This it is mainly due to the fact that the Courts need to have security knowing the funds are properly managed to ensure they do not run out over the client’s lifetime.
There are other situations a professional deputy may be more suited; for example, where an elderly person has lost capacity due to dementia, but they have large amounts of money, or many properties, and they don’t have any close family or friends who are able to be appointed.
There can be complex issues that arise in a deputyship that lay deputies may struggle with administrating, and that need to be addressed, such as:
- Working with independent financial advisors to ensure sustainability of the client’s funds;
- Reporting to the Office of the Public Guardian on an annual basis;
- Purchasing and potentially adapting property for the client to suit their current and future needs;
- Overseeing appropriate care plans;
- Completing tax returns;
- Liaising with case managers and care teams to ensure affordability, workability and continuity in the client’s day to day life; and
- If the client’s claim for compensation has not yet settled, liaising with the legal teams involved to ensure the client receives the best outcome achievable.
The above list in just a snapshot of what might be involved in a professional deputyship and there are copious other difficulties that could arise.
Alongside running the deputyship, the professional deputy will ensure necessary regulatory and safeguarding matters are adhered to. Professional deputies are heavily monitored by both the Office of the Public Guardian and the Court of Protection and must report to them annually, which negates any risk of financial negligence.