How to make a successful start as a deputy or attorney
Acting as a property and affairs attorney or deputy for a loved one can be a daunting task, but it is one that more and more of us are facing. You have the job of looking after some else’s finances and you very much want to get it right and do things well. You may have heard some of the commonly held beliefs about being an attorney or deputy but should you rely on these? Acting as an attorney or deputy is more complicated than simply stepping into the shoes of your loved one and doing whatever you think they would have done. At Wrigleys we are committed to helping you to get things right. This is the start of a series of blogs that will look at how to be an attorney or deputy, how to make is a success and how we can help if you need guidance.
So, once you have your registered LPA or received a Deputy Order how do you get started and what tasks should you deal with first?
As a professional deputy we:
- Check the Order or LPA to see if it says there is anything we can't do or if there is something we have to do
- Write to all the banks etc to register the LPA or deputy order
- Open a separate bank account to manage the funds of the person we are acting for
I would advise to start by looking at the LPA or your deputy order and checking to see if there is anything you can’t do. This is known as a restriction. Common restrictions may prevent the sale of a house without the specific agreement of the Court of Protection. If there is a restriction that you know is going to be a problem, for example you will need to sell a house to pay care fees but the LPA or deputy order doesn’t allow it, then you will need to apply to the Court of Protection to ask the restriction to be removed.
Attorneys and deputies are expected to make sure they know all the duties that they have. These are not all written on the LPA or the Deputy Order. To avoid making a mistake check what the rules are generally about what attorneys and deputies can and cannot do. A good place to get information about acting as an attorney or deputy is from the website of the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). There is also a Code of Practice which covers the duties of attorneys and deputies, which must be followed. You should check information about gifting, investing, wills and so on to make sure you are confident about your new role. If you want to take professional advice to help you with being a deputy or attorney the cost of this can be met from the funds of the person you manage, you will not be out of pocket if you need professional support.
A deputy or attorney must act in the best interests of the person they are helping. An attorney or deputy who is not acting in the best interests of the person they are appointed to help can be removed by the Court and legal steps can be taken so that they pay back any funds they may have lost or stolen.
Once you have checked what you can and cannot do as a deputy or attorney the next step is to contact all of the banks, building societies, utility providers, pension funds etc with a copy of the LPA or deputy order asking that they update the records to show that you are acting. It may be a good idea to ask for copy statements if you believe that paperwork is missing that you might need. Check that the person you are acting for is receiving all the income they are entitled to; there are a number of online services that help you to check benefits entitlements. If there are any debts see if they can be paid off.
It is important that as deputy or attorney your money and that of the person you act for is not mixed together. You should have a main deputy or attorney account that is completely separate from your own personal accounts. Deputies have to give the OPG a report each year of how they spend the money they manage. Attorneys must keep records too because they may be asked to provide an account if there is a problem or question in the future. I am going to look at record keeping in more detail in a future blog.
Having taken these steps you should have made a great start to being a successful deputy or attorney. Remember, if you need professional advice to get things right then the costs of this advice can be paid from the money of the person you are acting for, it is not a cost to you personally. Taking advice early on to get things right is often much easier and cheaper than fixing a mistake.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.