The Ministry of Justice is to issue refunds to about 80,000 people who were overcharged by the Office of the Public Guardian over a seven-year period.
Clients who had a deputy supervised by the OPG for any period between April 2008 and March 2015 could be entitled to a partial refund — averaging about £240 per person — as the fees charged did not match how much it cost the office to supervise the process.
Deputies are like lasting powers of attorney (a nominated friend or relative to make decisions for someone in cases of lost capacity) but are set up after the donor has lost capacity. LPAs can only be set up while the donor still has capacity.
Deputies are appointed by the Court of Protection to make financial and medical decisions but as the donor has already lost capacity, the OPG oversees this system to ensure deputies carry out their responsibilities effectively and the power is not misused.
According to the MoJ, predicting the cost of deputy supervision was difficult and due to the fact the number of deputyships rose faster than expected, the fees charged were incorrect.
Therefore former deputies, their attorney or those entitled to claim on their estate's behalf could be owed a refund and can apply to the MoJ for the funds.
The department expects about 82,000 people to be eligible for a refund and approximately £20m in refunds are due.
The MoJ stated no one had paid more than they should have since April 2015 and fees continued to be reviewed.
A MoJ spokesperson said: “It is right that those who may have been charged more than necessary to cover the costs of the service should be refunded.
“We have developed a scheme and are working with charities, membership bodies and other organisations to help reach those affected."
Martin Bamford, managing director at Informed Choice, said he frequently advised clients to visit solicitors or will writers about LPAs and deputyships.
He added: "By spreading the word about these refunds, it might make people realise the costs involved are very reasonable."
Guy Sterling, tax partner at Moore Kingston Smith, said this was not the first time the OPG had overcharged for the service it provided and said those who had required a deputy during this time, or the beneficiaries of an estate owed the funds, should get in touch with the MoJ.
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