Estate Planning, Finance Deputies and Care Homes Explained
There is much more to being a professional property and finance deputy than the name suggests.
It is not just managing someone’s money when they lack capacity to do so themselves. Here Lawyer Monthly hears from Amy Chater, Solicitor and expert in Vulnerable People and Court of Protection for Coffin Mew, on the relationship between finance deputies and care homes.
Although officially the deputy is appointed to step into the person’s shoes and look after their finances, in order to do this properly, it is important to know the person’s feelings, wishes and interests, care needs now and in the future. In fact these requirements form part of the Professional Deputy standards set by the Office of the Public Guardian.
I’ll be considering these requirements but within the scenario of looking after a deputyship client who resides in a care home, and how optimising the relationship between the finance deputy and the care home staff can ensure exceptional care for the resident.
First, one possible challenge which I’ve already alluded to is gleaning information about a person’s health and welfare when only in possession of a finance deputyship order. Fortunately, most care home managers and staff are experienced and knowledgeable about finance deputyship orders and will be happy to provide any required personal health information in the resident’s best interests.
For those who lack knowledge and experience an offer of training for the staff is usually well received and will hopefully ensure a smoother deputyship management journey. Pointing them to section 16 of the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice about access to information about a person without capacity can also help.
Secondly, along the same theme as the first, ensure the deputy’s (or their case supervisor’s) contact details are noted on the resident’s office and nursing notes; it is part of the 3rd Deputy Standard to provide details to all relevant parties. However, it is our experience that with care homes this information should also be stored with the nursing notes, ideally with a named nurse contact, so that notification can be given about any changes in care or health needs.
It is difficult to make financial plans or assess the suitability of benefits and personal allowance without an awareness of up to date health, care needs and prognosis. Being notified at the relevant time is also beneficial as it prevents the (costly) need for chasing updates; this is particularly so if the resident doesn’t have family or loved ones to be the link back to the deputy.
Thirdly, if the resident does have family/loved ones it is recommended that the care home staff understand that any financial decisions or decisions which affect the resident’s finances, still come to the deputy. Often family members/next of kin, still find themselves in the midst of health and welfare questions, which can have a financial impact.
Finally, the biggest challenge for a finance deputy can often be getting to know the person’s interests and wishes, if they lack mental capacity to provide these details themselves; in order to act in a person’s best interests, it is necessary to take into account their wishes and feelings.
The professional deputy is often appointed when there are no family members to act, which also usually means no family members to advise about the person. The care home staff are likely to find themselves in the same boat with a resident they have little background information about. Again it is important to work together with the information that is available to piece bits together and to hold best interests meetings when required.