COVID-19 – the practical impact on professional Deputies and the SCCO

During these uncertain times, communication is key. Clarion are in regular communication with the Senior Courts Costs Office to understand and share how they will be adapting to continue to service CoP cases.

Firstly, electronic signatures will be accepted. The SCCO still require the hard copy files of papers to undertake the assessment, however, they have extended the timescale for professionals to send the papers following e-filing from 5 days to 28 days, which will be a great help.

It will come as no surprise that the assessment turnaround will be delayed further by these challenges. The SCCO are working with a virtual costs office with cases being dealt with remotely wherever possible.

To help struggling firms, there is a move in the CoP to increase the interim payment to 85% for a full year’s general management charges. This will mean a change to Practice Direction 19B, which is under review. Further information about this will be shared as soon as possible.

Clarion are fully equipped during this time to continue working with professional Deputies to have their bills of costs drafted for assessment. If you have any queries, please contact Stephanie Kaye at Stephanie.kaye@clarionsolicitors.com or call 0113 3363402.

 

 

Best Practice for file keeping in the Court of Protection

File keeping can have a big impact on the assessment of a Deputy’s file by the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO). Stephanie Kaye looks at 5 key points about file keeping in the Court of Protection and how to maximise costs recovery.

Stephanie Kaye is a Senior Associate in the Clarion Costs Department, and heads the Court of Protection Costs team. You can contact her on 0113 336 3402 or by email at stephanie.kaye@clarionsolicitors.com. 

Further changes to CoP E-Filing

Further changes to E-Filing will be introduced from 17 February 2019. 

Following a recent review of e-filing practices by the SCCO, assessed bills lodged for certificate must be tallied. In instances where the Costs Officer has not already tallied the bill, it will be the solicitor’s responsibility to do so. Documents lodged for the issue of a certificate (summary sheet, assessed bill and Final Costs Certificate) must be filed under the heading ‘Filing – Certificate Summary Sheet (COP)’ and not ‘Filing – Acceptance of Provisionally Assessed Bill’ or any other option. Please note these documents must be filed as separate documents. Pending approval, the SCCO hope to circulate a basic guide on lodging documents for certificate in the near future. These changes are introduced to streamline the e-filing process.

The SCCO don’t require every entry in the bill to be tallied but simply the allowed figures written on the bill summary page situated in the middle of the bill of costs, detailing the profit costs, VAT, disbursements etc. The SCCO will eventually be looking to get rid of the separate bill summary sheet which will prevent duplication, but for now, both are required.

If you have any queries or would like to propose topics for future blogs by Clarion, please contact Stephanie Kaye at Stephanie.kaye@clarionsolicitors.com or call on 0113 3363402.

Court of Protection Deputies – Compulsory E-Filing NOW!

As of Monday 7 October 2019, the pilot began for voluntary electronic filing at the Senior Courts Costs Office. E-Filing in Court of Protection cases is compulsory from 20 January 2020.

Having spoken to the SCCO, they have confirmed that from Monday, bills of costs will be rejected if submitted in paper form. The SCCO will be adopting a strict system and will return files if the bill of costs and supporting papers are not electronically submitted.

To E-File, this requires the firm to register as a user for E-Filing. Each individual user then needs to create a profile to be an ‘E-Filer’ using an email address and password (https://efile.cefile-app.com/login). Thereafter, each individual case is created, detailing the parties/representatives, references, addresses and all other relevant information. If the Deputy wants their costs provider to help them with this process, they would need to be added as a party by the Deputy’s firm on an individual basis. In order to request an assessment, professional Deputies are required to send the bill of costs, the N258B and the authority to assess (the Order) through e-filing, in PDF format. This The SCCO, for the time being, still require the files of papers to be submitted by DX/post to undertake the assessment as electronic bundling is not available.

Once your case is submitted online, you will receive confirmation by email. This confirmation can be posted to the SCCO with your paper files. The SCCO will then marry up the bill of costs and the files at their offices. The bill of costs will be manually assessed and scanned onto the system, which you can access online and your files will be returned. Eventually, the SCCO would like electronic COP bills to be submitted which will allow them to undertake electronic recalculations, but this is not possible just yet.

It’s worth noting that payment can no longer be made by cheque to the SCCO – the firm must have a PBA or debit payment facility. This is much better for the Court and payments have so far been much more manageable.

The SCCO have experienced serious staffing issues in recent months but they are now fully staffed and clearing the backlog. In respect of Court of Protection assessments, they are currently in receipt of approximately 180 files for assessment per week, so it may take a little while longer to resume a reasonable turnaround of bills.

Information about existing FAQ’s following the E-Filing in other Courts can be found here: https://leedslawsociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/E-Filing-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf

The link to the government website regarding CE-Filing which includes step by step guides can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ce-file-system-information-and-support-advice

For more information, please contact Stephanie Kaye.

Electronic Filing – Court of Protection Cases

As of today, the pilot begins for voluntary electronic filing at the Senior Courts Costs Office. To request an assessment, the bill of costs, the N258B and the authority to assess are to be forwarded through e-filing. The papers are to be sent as normal in the post/DX for the current time. This process becomes mandatory on 20 January 2020.

This is a big change in costs and particularly regarding COP costs, whereby it was expected that electronic filing would not apply. We have had confirmation from the SCCO that this does apply to COP cases and we recommend that all practitioners begin doing this going forward before the process becomes mandatory.

 The portal link can be found here: https://efile.cefile-app.com/login

 Information about existing FAQ’s following the E-Filing in other Courts can be found here: https://leedslawsociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/E-Filing-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf

The link to the government website regarding CE-Filing which includes step by step guides can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ce-file-system-information-and-support-advice

 If you have any queries, please contact Stephanie Kaye on 0113 336 3402 or stephanie.kaye@clarionsolicitors.com

 

 

Court of Protection Costs – What happens after the death of P?

Upon the death of the Protected Party, the Deputy’s authority under the First General Order seizes with immediate effect. Once the matter is transferred to the Executors of the Estate, the Deputy can agree their costs directly without a need for assessment, if possible, which will generally save the Protected Party money overall, without the need for the assessment process. If this is not possible, it may be necessary to apply to the Court for the costs to be assessed.

The interim work and the costs of the Deputy bringing the matter to a conclusion following the death of the Protected Party have been questioned over the years, as there has been very little guidance on this issue. In many cases, there is reasonable and necessary work involved in preparing the case for the Executor to thereafter deal with the Estate, however, what is a reasonable sum for this work?

Following correspondence with the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO), the following change has been made to the assessment procedure with immediate effect. The SCCO may now allow ‘reasonable costs’ (post death of the Protected Party) in order that the Deputy can finalise his/her involvement in the matter. The SCCO have indicated that such costs should not be expected to exceed £1,500.00 +VAT.

As a result, where it appears that the post-death profit costs exceed £1,500.00 +VAT, the Deputy will require the authority to assess that part of the Bill of Costs. Costs below this amount are likely to be deemed reasonable on assessment but are, of course, subject to the usual assessment process and will be allowed based on what was reasonable, necessary and proportionate in the circumstances.

If you have any queries relating to post-death costs in Court of Protection cases, please do not hesitate to contact Stephanie Kaye.

The OPG105 Form – An Update for Professional Deputies

All professional Deputies should be aware of the OPG105 form (introduced in March 2016) which is required for submission alongside the OPG102 Deputyship Report on an annual basis to the Office of the Public Guardian in general management cases.

When submitting General Management Bills for Assessment to the Senior Courts Costs Office in relation to Deputyship matters, they are now requesting the above information. You may or may not have received notice from the Court stating the following:

“For the attention of Financial Deputies: Following the introduction of the OPG105 form in March 2016, please ensure when submitting general management bills for assessment, copies of the Annual Report/Accounts and Form OPG105 are attached to your bill to be assessed. Thank you for your co-operation in this matter.”

Following the Professional Deputy Costs Good Practice Guidance issued by the OPG and the SCCO in July 2016, it was requested that these documents were filed alongside the Bill of Costs for assessment by the Deputy. It’s apparent that very few Deputies are following this procedure and as such, the Court appear to be reinforcing the message. The guidance states:

“When submitting their bill for assessment, professional Deputies should enclose a copy of the fees estimate previously submitted to OPG. Estimates are not binding on the detailed assessment. If the costs claimed in the bill are 20% or more above the estimate it will also be necessary to provide reasons to the SCCO as to why there is a difference.

Should there be changes in the client’s circumstances during the year (and therefore costs to their estate), the Deputy should alert OPG if the fees are likely to be 20% or more than the submitted estimate. However, it will be for the SCCO to assess the professional Deputy’s costs at the end of the reporting year and for the Deputy to explain any inconsistencies.”

The guidance can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/538901/19_07_16_Professional_deputy_costs__FINAL.pdf

If you have any queries in respect of the above information, please do not hesitate to contact Stephanie Kaye, Head of the Court of Protection Costs Team at Clarion Solicitors, at Stephanie.kaye@clarionsolicitors.com or alternatively, please call 0113 336 3402.