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What is so interesting about acting for deputyship clients? How do you get involved in this (still not) particularly well known and yet extremely rewarding area of the law?
I was first introduced to deputyship work as a trainee solicitor in the private client team at Kingsley Napley. When I had to decide where I wanted to qualify, I knew immediately that I wanted to continue working for deputyship clients. I am now an associate solicitor and work closely with the partner in charge of the team, Simon Hardy, as we work to make a real difference to our clients' lives. He acts as a professional property and financial affairs deputy for numerous clients as well as advising our lay deputy clients on their role.
What do I actually do though? When dealing with the administration of someone’s financial affairs, the work is extremely varied and you never quite know what might arise on any particular day. I could be helping manage a package of care, involved in the purchase of a property, dealing with investments or tax issues, arranging a holiday or just making sure my client has enough money for their next shopping trip! No two days are ever the same and that is why I enjoy it so much.
The deputy’s role is to safeguard our clients' assets and in doing so to act in their best interests at all times. This sounds straightforward but how do we achieve this? Knowing the law and working with a team of specialists including case managers, therapists, financial advisors, investment managers and accountants is all part of it. However, perhaps most importantly is ensuring the client is at the centre of this process. I often speak to clients and/or their close family on a daily basis to ensure that their views are considered and that the client’s voice is heard. Our clients may lack capacity to manage their property and affairs but I never forget this is their money and their life. The quality of decision-making by any deputy is only as good as the information they have available to them. I see my role as helping ensure the best information is provided to the deputy so they can ensure the correct decision is made in the client’s best interests.
Part of my daily role also involves preparing application papers to the Court of Protection, whether that is for the appointment of a deputy or in respect of other financial issues. Depending on a client’s needs at any given time, this could be an application to prepare a statutory will, seeking specific authority to purchase a property or to invest in a particular venture or perhaps to make gifts that fall outside of the deputy’s usual authority.
I have also recently prepared applications for clients who are unhappy and want to appoint a different professional deputy – many clients or their families don’t always realise that this is possible and so they just continue on, even though it isn’t working how they had hoped.
In order to prepare these applications, I must have in-depth knowledge of the background, the reasons for the application and why it is in the client’s best interests for the order to be made. I also take on board cultural and/or religious sensitivities. As each case is different, I will speak to the client and/or their family to obtain this information and to ensure that their views are considered and communicated.
In writing this blog I have spoken to my colleagues in the team and we all share the same view – it may not be what most people imagine when they think of what a solicitor does but it is a genuinely interesting, stimulating and ultimately rewarding role. A short blog like this can never be anything other than a brief window into our work.
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