What is a Deputy?

A deputy is someone who is appointed by the Court of Protection to handle the day to day running of the person’s finances and property. The powers of a deputy can relate to dealing with the financial affairs and/or the personal and welfare issues of the person without capacity. The court sets out the scope of the deputy’s authority.

When is a Deputy Appointed?

The Court of Protection will usually appoint a deputy when a client is deemed to lack mental or legal capacity and has:

  • more than £16,000 in cash after payment of debts, or;
  • property to be sold or purchased
  • a level of income that the court considers necessitates the appointment of a receiver
  • a formal application to the Court of Protection must be made using the appropriate forms, which can be downloaded from the website of the Office of the Public Guardian – www.publicguardian.gov.uk.

How is a Deputy Appointed?

The Court of Protection prefers a close family member to act as deputy as they are far more likely to have the person’s best interest at heart. However, anybody can be considered by the Court of Protection to be appointed as deputy. They may be a relative, friend, neighbour or professional representative, such as a solicitor, accountant, or a local authority officer. The person making the application may seek their own appointment, or they may ask for the appointment of someone else.

There are occasions when the Court of Protection is unable to appoint a suitable deputy as explained above, in such circumstances the court will first consider whether a member of its professional panel of deputies would be suitable to act and, if this would not be in the client’s best interests, will appoint the Chief Executive of the Public Guardianship Office to act as deputy as the last Resort.

When the Court of Protection appoints the Chief Executive of the OPG, the client’s affairs will be assigned to a caseworker who is a member of staff of the OPG. It is the caseworker, under delegated responsibility from the court, who has day-to-day responsibility for running the client’s financial affairs.

An application to the Court of Protection for the appointment of a deputy must be supported by a medical certificate, stating that in the doctor’s opinion, the patient is incapable of managing and administering their property and affairs by virtue of mental disorder as defined in Section 1 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

Following his or her appointment, the deputy will automatically receive information and details of all the literature the OPG produce in connection with the day-to-day management of the affairs of a client under their care. The information also gives details of the various help lines available to deal with any problems encountered.

Each client and deputy is assigned to a team of caseworkers, who are the main point of contact with the OPG and Court, and who are happy to give advice.

What are the Powers of a Deputy?

The powers of a deputy can relate to dealing with financial affairs of a person who is incapable (the client) and/or dealing with personal and welfare issues, e.g. where the person will live. Someone can have different people acting as deputies with these two different powers. The scope of any powers is clearly set out in the order appointing the deputy. The deputy can only do what they are authorised to do by the OPG.

A deputy is expected to consult regularly with the person concerned to find out their views on how their money is spent. Any disagreement in how money should be spent should be referred to the caseworker of the OPG.

As a general rule the deputy can sign forms on the client’s behalf. In most cases, e.g. signing receipts for income received, the deputy will sign in their own name and not in the name of the client. There are some formal documents, where the OPG’s prior authority may be needed.

What are the Duties of a Deputy?

During the course of a deputy’s appointment, he or she will be required each year to submit an account of the money received and spent on the client’s behalf. Supporting documents will be required, including bank statements.

The deputy’s main duties are to:

  • act at all times in the best interests of the client
  • safeguard the client’s assets
  • open a deputy account at a local bank or building society
  • claim from the benefits agency all social security benefits to which the client is entitled
  • take out security in the manner approved by the court and to pay any bond premiums as and when required
  • prepare accounts annually or as required
  • ensure the client’s funds are being used to provide him/her the best quality of life
  • ensure that all income is collected and bills are paid on time
  • arrange safe-keeping of all deeds, documents of title, testamentary documents and other valuable items
  • keep any property in a reasonable state of repair, secure and adequately insured
  • deal with the client’s income tax and other tax matters
  • notify the OPG of any changes in the client’s financial situation, for example if they inherit money or property
  • inform the DVLA if the client holds or applies for a driving license
  • advise the OPG if there is a likelihood of the client getting married, divorced or involved in other legal proceedings
  • advise the OPG if the preparation of a will is being considered
  • co-operate with any Court of Protection visitor
  • obtain OPG authority before dealing with any capital money
  • inform the OPG of the client’s death, or change in circumstances, such as a change of address and the level of accommodation fees payable
  • comply with all Orders and directions made by the court.

If you have an enquiry about someone who needs help to manage their financial affairs, then you may wish to contact OPG services:

Office of the Public Guardianship
Archway Tower
2 Junction Road
London
N19 5SZ
Tel: 0300 4560300
Text phone: 0207 664 7755
E-mail: customerservices@publicguardian.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.publicguardian.gov.uk