New guidance on professional deputy costs from the OPG & SCCO
This guidance has been published, aimed at professional deputies, as part of the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) new model of supervision.
Professional deputies will need to follow the new guidance closely when claiming deputyship general management costs as the OPG and SCCO tighten up the costs regime.
This model is based on the premise that the majority of professional deputies aim for best practice when assessing their costs and that with the support of the OPG they will ensure that costs are transparent, reasonable and proportionate to the total value of the client’s estate and the amount of work carried out by the professional deputy.
The new model of supervision includes greater co-operation between the OPG and the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO) whose role is to assess the costs of professional deputies where the professional deputy does not elect to take a fixed fee for their work.
From 1 March 2016, professional deputies have been required to estimate their costs for the following year using form OPG105 on an annual basis. If these costs are exceeded by 20% or more, the professional deputy will be required to update the OPG as soon as they become aware that this is likely. The OPG will discuss and clarify any concerns they may have and it has the power to remove a professional deputy if concerns are not resolved.
The professional deputy must also provide an explanation to the SCCO of why estimated costs have been exceeded. The SCCO will take this explanation into account when assessing the professional deputy’s bill of costs. The SCCO has the power to reduce a professional deputy’s bill and the OPG will not interfere with their final decision.
The guidance requires professional deputies to make a professional assessment of whether it is in their client’s best interests for them to continue in their role or whether a family or friend would be more appropriate to act as deputy, particularly where a client’s affairs are well-organised and not likely to undergo significant changes. There is encouragement to professional deputies to be open and transparent and to consider in a balanced way whether it would be in a client’s best interests to disclose details of the professional deputy’s charges to the client’s family or friends.
The overview of the approach taken by the SCCO to assessing costs in general management of a deputyship included in the new guidance provides detailed clarification in 15 key areas:
- The SCCO Guideline Hourly Rates will be allowed on assessment. Rates in excess of these will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.
- Routine activities should be carried out by a Grade D fee earner or a non-fee earner.
- 3 minute units are allowed for paying bills.
- One home visit each year is allowed. Further visits must be justified based on the deputy’s duties under the Mental Capacity Act.
- Work in respect of welfare is not recoverable, except with permission of the Court of Protection.
- One senior fee earner may attend investment ‘beauty parades’.
- File notes must evidence all work.
- Research, incoming mail, internal communication and supervision are not chargeable.
- 3 minute units are allowed for short letters.
- Litigation costs are not allowed. They should be claimed in the litigation.
- Grade D fee earners should prepare bills.
- Where the client’s net assets are below £16,000, professional costs must be limited to 4.5% of the client’s estate per year
- On death, professional costs are to be agreed with the executor. If the executor is also the deputy, costs should be assessed by the SCCO.
- The OPG105 must be submitted to the SCCO with the bill of costs.
- Bills of costs must be submitted once a year.
For further information about this Guidance or Wrigleys’ wider services relating to deputyships, please click here