Why do carers of vulnerable people appoint a professional deputy?
Jessica Morton, experienced court of protection solicitor of Tilly Bailey & Irvine Solicitors, explains why so many carers of vulnerable people opt to appoint a professional deputy to look after their financial affairs.
A deputy is a person that looks after the financial affairs of a vulnerable person mentally incapable of handling it themselves.
Professional deputies undertake the same role, but are qualified solicitors with extensive experience in such matters. They are governed by the Office of the Public Guardian and are held to a high standard in terms of the decisions they make. Partners at Tilly Bailey & Irvine LLP hold a significant number of professional deputy positions and have done so for many decades, making them experts in the field with significant experience.
Professional deputies can be appointed by the Court of Protection by a selection from their panel of deputies. This is often known as a “deputy of last resort”. It is much more preferable for a professional deputy to be actually chosen by the parties so it can be ensured that the right person is picked for the job.
But why do so many relatives of vulnerable people appoint professional deputies?
- They make use of experienced heads. Many carers are parents of disabled children. Quite often, these parents will have had no experience of being in such a position and it can be immensely overwhelming. Having a professional deputy at their side to answer questions and help them along the way can be invaluable. Sometimes the carers may be fully prepared to undertake the deputyship role but the size and complexity of the financial affairs may be that a professional should handle it instead.
- It eases the burden. There are many situations where caring for someone mentally and/ or physically incapacitated can be a full-time job (and a tough one at that). In such situations, the burden of the day-to-day matters combined with the financial responsibilities is too much to handle properly.
- It removes emotion from difficult decisions. Often an answer will need to be “no”. It is extremely difficult for the carer of a mentally incapable person to say no to a request from them. However, that is often the correct response to make in consideration of the circumstances. Having a professional deputy removes that burden from the carers. However, it is not just about being “the bad guy”, it is also about having someone objective looking at the long-term benefit of a decision, which can be hard for a carer to do when they are so drastically invested in the short-term.
- It brings potential financial benefits. Professional deputies charge fees. It may therefore initially seem counter-intuitive to see a financial benefit to appointing one. However, over a long-term appointment, the experience, contacts and decision-making tools available to a professional deputy could end up meaning they pay for themselves, and more. Properly dealing with things such as negotiating large purchases; avoiding unnecessary expenditures; and choosing the best advisers in relation to investment can all end up making the benefits outweigh the costs. Also keep in mind that the costs of professional deputies are monitored each year by the Office of the Public Guardian, meaning that “over-charging” is very unlikely.