The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) closely monitors costs claimed by solicitors appointed by the Court of Protection as a professional deputy for a person's property and financial affairs, or their personal welfare.
There are various categories of fixed costs set out in Practice Direction 19B which supplements Part 19 of the Court of Protection Rules 2017. There are however circumstances where fixed costs are not appropriate and a professional deputy can submit a bill of costs for general management work to the Senior Court Costs Office for assessment. Where the costs claimed are under £3,000 excluding VAT and disbursements a short form bill is used however a detailed bill of costs is required where costs exceed that figure.
We can advise solicitors appointed as professional deputies on the costs that will be recoverable, the ability to take interim payments on account of costs, and deal with the preparation of short form and detailed bills. We have experience of dealing with straightforward cases and also more complex cases such as those where the protected person has died and the professional deputy's claim for costs is disputed by beneficiaries of the deceased's estate.
Electronic Bill of Costs
In 2020 the Senior Costs Judge invited members of the SCCO and costs professionals specialising in Court of Protection work to set up a working party to discuss and design an electronic bill of costs to be used in Court of Protection matters. A template of the proposed bill "COP-E" was made available earlier this year and the working party sought comments during a short consultation period that ended on 29 April 2022.
At this stage it is not clear when it will be necessary to submit bills of costs to the SCCO for assessment in an electronic format but given the short consultation period we imagine this will be sooner rather than later.
We have considerable experience of preparing electronic bills of costs, required in Part 7 multi-track claims since 6 April 2018, and will be well placed to assist and guide solicitors dealing in Court of Protection matters through the new bill and assessment procedure once it becomes mandatory. In our experience when new procedures are introduced, or the format of bills changes, practionners can encounter difficulties claiming costs and following procedures correctly. This can lead to delays in costs being assessed and potential shortfalls in terms of costs recovered.
The SCCO are currently suffering from a backlog of Court of Protection bills awaiting assessment and on 3 May 2022 advised that costs officers were being assigned paper bills submitted in October 2021, and any bills submitted electronically during the first week of March 2022. Once assessed there is a further delay of around 1 month in assessed bills being returned to solicitors. In light of these delays it is highly important to ensure that costs are claimed and submitted correctly to avoid the possibility of bills being rejected.
If you wish to discuss the proposals, or require any advice or assistance in relation to costs in Court of Protection matters please get in touch.
Our experienced team of Law Costs experts are here to help.