Again, a Court of Protection case. This time by Senior Judge Lush.
Re A 2016
The first thing that leaped out at me in reading this was that the applicant, who was asking that a professional be appointed as a deputy to manage the affairs of her mother, had instructed a QC. That’s pretty rare, and tells me that the case might have a bit of substance. The person opposing the application, D, was the son, and he was in person.
The mother A was 78 and the Judge says “comes from a titled family”, so one assumes there’s some pot of money. I have to say that from the brief description of her, I liked her enormously.
“She told me that she still hears voices but wasn’t able to tell me what they have said recently. She told me about her hobby of sending letters and cards to famous people. She was very keen to discuss the Queen and her plans to send a Christmas present that the Queen would appreciate. When I asked what this would be, she replied, ‘Books, make-up and a lollipop.’ She then told me that she wants to send a ‘woolly animal toy’ to David Cameron’s daughter. Mr Cameron is one of the famous people that she is most interested in and she told me that he had proposed marriage to her in the past, despite having a very glamorous wife already. A told me that she had met the Prince of Wales several times and that he was ‘very easy to be with’. She went on to say. ‘He has eighteen women lovers. I wish he liked me’.”
It was very clear from the assessment of her that she lacked capacity to manage her own affairs. There were some previous proceedings about appointing a deputy in 2013, and I note that the Judge remarked that within those proceedings, D’s conduct had been such that a cost order of £7,500 had been made against him.
- After only eighteen months as A’s deputy, C now wishes to stand down, and on 15 January 2015 she filed an application seeking an order that Suzanne Jane Marriott, a partner in Charles Russell Speechlys, Solicitors, London EC4, be appointed in her place.
- She also made an application for Mrs Marriott, once appointed as deputy, to exercise A’s power to appoint new trustees of certain settlements and appoint herself as a trustee.
Reading between the lines, and explicitly, D’s frequent and lengthy correspondence had been a factor in C no longer wishing to act as deputy and wanting a professional person to do so.
D generates an enormous volume of correspondence and, even though most of the points he makes are irrelevant, tiresome and repetitious, his correspondence needs to be read by the recipient, if only to confirm that that is simply hot air. Naturally, Mrs Marriott is concerned about the costs implications for A’s estate if she is required to respond to every item of correspondence or e-mail sent to her by D. Accordingly, the applicant has asked the court to direct that Mrs Marriott need only reply to communications from D that appear to be pertinent to her role as deputy, and that she needn’t reply in relation to any relevant point that he raises more than once.
D had two chief reasons for objecting to the appointment of Mrs Marriott as a deputy – the first (sensible) was that a professional deputy will generally charge from the estate, whereas a family member would not. The second was less sensible
(a) she is an expert in ‘tax avoidance’, which, I assume, he regards as morally wrong [Mrs Marriott’s response is that her experience of tax avoidance, as distinct from tax evasion, is no greater than that of any other private client lawyer based in the City of London]
To be honest, if you have to have someone else managing your financial affairs, that person having a solid working knowledge of the best lawful ways to minimise tax payments from it seems to me to be rather a good thing.
- Since 1959 a family member has acted as A’s committee and subsequently as her receiver and deputy. Sadly, because of D’s conduct, no suitable family member is now willing to act as A’s deputy for property and affairs and there is no alternative to the appointment of a professional.
- In my judgment, it would be in A’s best interests to appoint Suzanne Marriott as her deputy and as a trustee of the 1978 Settlements for the following reasons.
- The checklist in section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act is not tremendously helpful on this occasion. I have no idea of A’s own wishes and feelings about the application, and shall assume that she has no particular views on the matter. According to Professor Howard, “she is not able to understand how the Court of Protection and her niece could operate on her behalf and in her best interests.”
- As regards the views of others who are engaged in caring for her or interested in A’s welfare, the respondent, D, has made his views known and they are outnumbered by those of the applicant and her mother and siblings and the professionals at Macfarlanes who have been looking after the affairs of A and other members of her family for decades, all of whom support C’s application.
- Few people, if any, are better qualified than Mrs Marriott to act as A’s deputy and trustee. Charles Russell Speechly’s website says that:
“Suzanne specialises in cross border and UK tax planning, wills, trusts, contentious trusts and probates, Inheritance Act claims, estate and succession planning, international wills and trusts, non-domiciliaries, mental incapacity and Court of Protection work, heritage property, art, landed estates and charitable trusts. She acts as trustee, executor, deputy, attorney and charitable trustee for many well-known clients and is often appointed by the court in these roles where there are disputes. Suzanne is a notary public practising in the City of London and is a member of STEP, ACTAPS, and the CLA.”
[These are the acronyms of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists, and the Country Land and Business Association respectively].
- She and her firm have substantial experience of acting as professional deputies and the role of other partners and members of staff should not be underestimated. In July 2015 the OPG published a set of ‘Deputy Standards’ for professional deputies, Standard 3 of which requires professional deputies to “maintain effective internal office processes and organisation”. Amongst other things, this involves establishing clear and effective governance between the named deputy and staff delegated to carry out the day-to-day functions of the role.
- Both Suzanne Marriott and Charles Russell Speechlys also have considerable know-how in dealing with landed families and private wealth management. I imagine that, in selecting Suzanne Marriott as a potential replacement for C, Macfarlanes consciously looked for someone with a similar practice to their own but with more experience of contentious Court of Protection matters.
- I concur with the observation made by Mr Justice Newey that, although Charles Russell Speechlys’ fees are likely to be large, it is improbable that they will be excessive because the Senior Courts Costs Office will carry out a detailed assessment of their general management costs on the standard basis each year.
- With a view to keeping the costs as proportionate as possible, and because I believe that it would be in A’s best interests to do so, I shall allow the applicant’s request, to which I referred in paragraph 33 above, and direct Mrs Marriott to reply only to communications from D that appear to be relevant to her role as deputy and not to reply to any irrelevant communications or to any relevant point that he has raised more than once.
[That last paragraph might seem very appealing to lawyers and deputies around the country who are faced with people like D. ]