Court of Protection: 6 further top tips for estimating costs
As you will no doubt be aware practitioners are now expected to inform the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) with their estimated fees for the forthcoming general management year. Introduced in Spring 2016, the OPG105 provides the OPG with details of practitioners’ costs for the previous year and the estimated costs for the forthcoming deputyship year.
Regular readers of this bulletin may recall that, back in the summer, we provided ten top tips with regard to costs estimates. You can see our top ten tips for estimates here. We are now almost two years on from when these were first introduced, and whilst we had to wait a year to see what the impact of these would be, we are now another further year down the line and have noted further trends and common mistakes that can be made.
We therefore have put together a further six top tips, which will hope will give you something to think about, but more importantly assist you when completing your estimate.
Six further top tips for completing the report
- We would always encourage you to complete the “additional information” section on page 5 of the OPG105. This will assist your costs draftsman and the court, should your estimate be exceeded. If you are able to provide details upon which your estimate is based, should any further issue arise during the deputyship year, details of these issues can be conveyed to the court and help justify any additional costs over and above the 20% allowed by the court.
- Further to the above point, it may be worthwhile putting in details of any potential issues that may arise. As covered in our top ten tips article, this will justify an “inflated” estimate, in the event matters settle down or certain issues are not progressed for whatever reason.
- Do remember that you will need to lodge the previous year’s OPG105 prepared, as this will contain the estimated costs for the year for which the bill of costs has been prepared. For example, if we were preparing a bill for 2016/2017, we would need the OPG105 that was prepared at the outset of 2016, which would contain details of the costs incurred for 2015/16 and the estimated costs for 2016/17.
- If you do exceed your estimated costs by more than 20%, do advise your draftsman of the reasons as to why the costs have been exceeded. This will prevent any delay in completing the assessment as the draftsman will be able to detail these reasons within the narrative. In facing these issues head on and being open and frank with the SCCO, this will ensure your costs are not capped and avoid the need for further appeal. This will negate the further time and cost associated in dealing with these issues.
- We believe that, going forward, it will be necessary to ensure the correct OPG105 is lodged with the bills and the court will be taking a stricter stance. We would not be surprised if, in the near future, bills are returned un-assessed if the correct documents are not lodged. It is also necessary for the OPG102 annual report to be submitted along with the OPG105.
- One of the issues that regularly arises is that of the costs draftsman’s fees taking the costs claimed to over 20% of the estimated costs. You may wish to consider adding another 7-10% to your overall estimate, to take into account the draftsman’s fees. Whilst an issue that can be easily and readily explained to the court in the event this does occur (we have seen more than a few), if the estimate takes this into account initially the need for further explanations is negated.
We have not yet witnessed any incidents of costs being “capped” to that of the estimate plus the 20% allowance. However, we feel we have been proactive in addressing any issues in those cases where the costs claimed exceed the estimate. We believe it is important to liaise with our clients in order to ensure that any explanations of exceeded estimates are fully accurate and all issues are covered.
The new rules in relation to costs estimates remain in their infancy, however, we continue to monitor both the estimates and the impact of them on assessment. The fundamental rules remain that your costs need to be reasonable and bear a resemblance to the matters in issue; they have to be proportionate.
We do hope the information within this bulletin provides useful insight and information as to how you can approach these estimates.
However, you should have any further queries, or simply wish to discuss any costs queries you may have, please don’t hesitate to contact us.