Court of Protection Costs Assessment
Electronic Filing Mandatory from 20 January 2020
Court of Protection Costs Assessment
The general management costs incurred by a Property and Affairs Deputy are to be assessed on an annual basis. The general management period is set by the original Court Order appointing the professional deputy.
Fixed costs can be elected to be taken however, in more sizeable cases involving substantial net assets of the Protected Person, it is preferential for costs to be assessed. In assessing costs, the Court requires the preparation of a 3-column Bill of Costs, for submission to the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO) alongside your file of papers. Currently, this is done via postal method and submission of hard copies of the Deputy’s papers.
On submission of the Bill of Costs for assessment with the relevant request, alongside the file of papers, the SCCO will proceed to conduct a Court of Protection detailed assessment by hand, and will return a hard copy of the Bill showing manually calculated figures for the Professional Deputy to approve. On agreement of the figures, a Final Costs Certificate will be sent to the Court for sealing, upon receipt of which the balance of legal costs due to the Professional Deputy can be deducted from the Protected Person’s funds.
Inevitably, this can be a very time consuming and costly process, the Professional Deputy’s time for which is unrecoverable as costs.
What is Electronic Filing and When Does This Apply?
From 20 January 2020, the publication ‘Electronic Working in the Senior Courts Costs Office’ stipulates that in all Court of Protection costs assessments, as well as Bills of Costs submitted in Legal Aid and Criminal Appeals, will require mandatory electronic submissions utilising the CE-File process.
This will dispose of paper documentation being submitted in Court of Protection cost assessments, and should expedite the processing of Bills of Costs and sealing by the Court.
What is CE-File and How Will This Apply to Detailed Assessment?
This is the electronic filing service found here, for which professional deputies are required to create a login. We recommend this is done as soon as is practically possible to ensure a smooth transition in process. The system itself is relatively simple to utilise, and will require a user to insert a case reference, to which specific documents can be submitted and e-filed.
How Will Electronic Filing Work?
The guidance note as well as supplementary directions given in Practice Directon 51O deal comprehensively in the changes made to Court of Protection costs assessment and state as follows:
– The general rule is that electronic Bills must be submitted in an Excel and PDF format. It is not clear whether Court of Protection Bills, which are typically drawn 3-column fashion, will need to be prepared in an electronic bill format going forward, or if just a PDF document will suffice.
– The Court can refuse to convert documents into PDF format, and will instead return incorrectly formatted documents to the user to be re-submitted. In addition, documents filed upside down or that are considered illegible will be rejected.
– Documents should not be sent by more than one medium i.e. if electronically filed, a user must not also send a hard paper copy.
– Documents filed must not exceed 50MB. This suggests that a file of papers in support of a Court of Protection Bill is unlikely to be able to be submitted electronically save for on small files. If this is the case, it is likely that hard copies will need to be filed given that this is the case for hearing bundles. It is however, noted that the Practice Direction allows for up to 10 documents to be e-filed at any one time, and thus any file of papers could theoretically be split and submitted to comply with the file size limits.
– If accepted by the Court, the user will receive an email notification confirming so, or any reason as to why a document may have been rejected.
– Court fees should be paid at the same time as e-filing (via debit/credit care, or any other HMCTS approved method), and the deemed date for any electronic payment will be on approval of the filed documents.
– On receipt of a Court of Protection costs assessment, upon agreement of the same by the Professional Deputy, a Final Costs Certificate can then be drafted and e-filed, thus expediting the transfer of funds from the Protected Person to the Solicitor/legal representative.
What is the Benefit of Electronic Filing for a Court of Protection Costs Assessment?
Whilst there are likely to be some teething issues, once embedded in everyday practice, electronic filing will result in the faster submission, processing and returning of assessed Bills. As the Court reforms continue to expand digitilisation in subsequent years, it is hoped that they will be brought up to speed with technological changes already embraced by law firms. This will only serve to improve the efficiency of legal processes whilst also reducing the cost of the same.
Court of Protection costs assessments will subsequently require less administrative costs to be incurred, ensuring less wasted time is spent dealing with the legal costs assessment and recovery process.
How Can the ARC Costs Team Assist?
The ARC Costs team specialise in preparing and submitting Court of Protection Bills of Costs, and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone on 01204 397302. For more information on legal costs, please find out more about our speciality areas of expertise on our legal costs page.
ARC Costs specialise in the full spectrum of legal costs work and are able to provide a range of drafting, negotiation, assessment and costs recovery services. To find out more, complete our no-obligation contact form below, and one of the team will respond on the same day.
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