What is a professional deputy?
When someone loses mental capacity, either through injury or due to old age or another health condition, and can no longer make decisions for themselves, you can apply to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy to make decisions on their behalf.
Often, this is a family member or close friend, but a professional deputy can also be appointed to manage the person's property and financial affairs. Managing a family member's affairs can be stressful, so appointing a professional deputy can ease the strain on loved ones, leaving them to care and spend time with their family member instead.
A professional deputy is usually a solicitor with expertise in representing vulnerable clients and has specialist knowledge of the Court of Protection. A professional deputy will always act in the best interests of the person who lacks capacity and have a clear understanding of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
What does a professional deputy do?
A professional deputy manages the property and financial affairs of someone who lacks mental capacity. They can ease the stress on family members who may otherwise have to manage these things, allowing them the time to concentrate on providing the support and care their family member needs.
If a professional deputy is appointed, they can help with many different areas, including:
- Managing financial affairs, including producing annual accounts and reports for the Office of the Public Guardian, as well as dealing with administrative tasks such as paying invoices and managing bills
- Regularly preparing and reviewing income and expenditure budgets
- Dealing with the sale, purchase or adaptation of any property
- Welfare benefits, including protecting current and future entitlements
- Local authority and NHS funding for care
- Employing case managers, therapists and treatment providers and arranging payment of invoices
- Managing investments
- Dealing with workplace pension schemes
As well as the tasks above, a professional deputy can also provide support if someone does not have a Will and cannot make one themselves. A professional deputy will consider the impact of the intestacy rules on distributing the person's estate if they die. If appropriate, they can make an application to the Court of Protection for a Statutory Will to be executed.
Why should I choose a professional deputy?
When a person has received a large sum of money, such as through a personal injury claim, the Court of Protection generally prefers this money to be managed by a professional deputy rather than a lay deputy (such as a family member or friend).
Managing large sums of money can be complex, along with keeping clear and consistent records that need to be filed with the Office of the Public Guardian, and this can cause a lot of strain on family members who already have the stress of caring for and support their loved one with their recovery.
It is also important with personal injury claims that funds for future care do not run out over the person's lifetime, so managing affairs correctly will safeguard this.
Some of the complex areas a professional deputy will manage can include:
- Providing annual reports and accounts to the Office of the Public Guardian detailing all income and expenditure and listing all decision that have been made
- Liaising with financial advisors about investment opportunities
- Completing yearly tax returns
- Purchasing and maintaining any property that the person occupies and arranging for works to be carried out
- Overseeing and arranging contracts for care
- Liaising with the Court of Protection and any Court appointed visitor
- Applying to the Court of Protection for approval of expenditure outside of the scope of their authority
What to look for in a Professional Deputy
When looking to appoint a professional deputy, it's important to build a relationship with the person and speak openly and honestly with each other. Usually, a deputy will be involved in a person's life for a long time, so it's important to appoint someone who understands the whole situation and family dynamics.
A professional deputy should always act in the best interests of the person who lacks capacity and regularly assess their capacity and involve them in all decisions made on their behalf. It's important that they consider the person's past and present wishes, feelings, values, and beliefs and obtain the views of other people who know them well and those involved in their care.
Before appointing a professional deputy, you should assess their expertise and ensure they have a full understanding of both the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and its associated Code of Practice. It is also useful to speak with a professional deputy about how they have represented vulnerable people in the past and how they would deal with different situations.
How are professional deputies paid?
A professional deputy usually gets paid for the initial application to be appointed as a deputy and then an annual figure for managing someone's affairs. There are rules about how much a professional deputy can be paid, which can be found in Practice Direction B – Fixed Costs in the Court of Protection.
The costs associated with the appointment of a professional deputy and the ongoing management fees can be recoverable as part of a personal injury claim. As this costs can continue for the person's whole life, this can substantially contribute to any final settlement received.
What to do if I have concerns about my current deputy?
A professional deputy can be a huge part of someone's life, so it's important that this person is right for them and their circumstances. Building close relationships with the whole support network is vital for the relationship to work. Everyone needs to feel comfortable with the professional deputy and feel confident in the decisions they are making.
If you have concerns with your current deputy, you should always raise these with your deputy and try to resolve any issues you may be having. If after this time you're still unhappy, it is possible to change your professional deputy. You can find out more about changing a professional deputy here.