The Court of Protection is considering giving judges more power to make family members cover the legal costs in disputes over an incapacitated person’s property, affairs or care.
Under current rules the costs for these disputes are normally paid out of the incapacitated person’s estate, although in some circumstances judges can depart from this rule
But under the changes now being considered, judges would be given greater scope to direct family members to pay these costs.
Karon Walton (pictured), director at Solicitors for the Elderly, an association of lawyers providing advice to older people, said a public consultation paper is being drafted by the Court of Protection Rules Committee. But the exact timing of the consultation is not yet known.
She said: ‘[The reform] could mean that incapacitated individuals may not have to bear the costs of disputes over their property and affairs and instead, costs could be directed towards applicants or parties involved in the dispute.’
Emily Deane, technical counsel at The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), said she supported the idea of giving courts more discretion over costs in extreme cases where a vulnerable person and their estate are being abused by their deputies.
She told the Gazette: ‘In these cases, the court should have the capability to order the parties to pay their own costs and subsequently, appoint a third-party deputy to act in their place.
‘This capability would give vulnerable people more protection whilst bringing wasteful legal actions, at the expense of the innocent party, to a halt.’