The Court of Protection has had a pretty bad press in recent months. Dubbed the "secret court" by the press and charged with accusations of taking people's money away from them and long delays in dealing with applications and requests, it's not looking great for the Court of Protection.
But for those who are helping a loved one who has lost capacity and did not put an Enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney in place whilst they still had capacity, dealing with the Court of Protection will become part of their daily life. As a solicitor who specialises in Court of Protection work I want to offer a few handy hints to make dealing with Court a little less painful.
1. Make sure you are dealing with the correct organisation.
This might sound obvious, but as well as the Court of Protection itself, there are two other distinct organisations that you will need to deal with regularly in dealing with the property and affairs of a loved one; the Office of the Public Guardian and the Courts Funds office. You can waste a lot of time (and patience!) if you spend 15 minutes on hold only to discover you have called the wrong organisation. As a quick summary of what each of the organisations do:
Court of Protection - The CoP deals with initial applications to be appointed Deputy for both property and affairs and welfare. The court also deals with applications to extend a deputies powers, to put a statutory Will in place and in relation to purchasing a property or making large investments.
Office of the Public Guardian - The OPG deals with the supervision of deputies once they have been appointed. It is to the OPG that the annual deputy accounts are submitted, and it is the OPG who arrange for the Court visitors and deal with supervision fees.
Court Funds Office - The CFO is where funds are held on behalf of people who have lost capacity. It is the Court Funds Office you will need to contact if you need further money to be released.
2. Contacting the Organisation
Once you know which of the organisations you need to contact it might be worth checking on their website to see if you can find the answer to your query without having to speak to them directly.
The HMCS (Her Majesty's Court Service) website is very useful. If you go to the "Forms and Guidance" section and select "Court of Protection" you will find a list of all Court of Protection forms together with guidance notes for each form.
Here you can find information about the relevant fees and general guidance. From here you can also access Court of Protection information including court rules and practice directions.
It is very easy to end up contacting the wrong organisation, but hopefully this brief summary will serve as a quick reference guide.