Law Firm fined and admonished for overcharging deputyship fees
Frettons, a law firm based in Dorset, has been fined for overcharging a man subject to a deputyship order.
The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) helped to settle the fine and ordered costs of £1,350 to be paid.
The very concept of becoming entrusted with the protection of a person’s estate when they lack capacity should have ensured that complete transparency and due diligence was upheld. Because of the firm’s oversight, they had inadvertently damaged the estate and breached the trust of the deputyship agreement.
According to the Deputyship order, Frettons were able to charge a fixed charge of £1,500 in the opening year of the agreement and £1,185 excluding VAT in any following year. For this amount, the company would maintain the financial affairs of the estate.
The deputy had the power to assess the costs they charged, with the Senior Courts Costs Office willing to carry out regular, detailed assessments on Frettons behalf.
Unfortunately, the company failed to carry out the necessary assessments, taking payments in excess of the costs for a full three years before his death in 2015.
An SRA spokesperson said the actions were: “deliberate or reckless and affected a vulnerable person.”
Following the man’s death, Frettons reviewed and assessed the costs, determining that an overpayment had been made; they refunded the estate over £3000.
Frettons, a firm consisting of over fifty fee earners, admitted that it had breached the trust of the public and had failed to protect client money and assets.
Whilst accidents happen and all firms are going to make mistakes, any firm entrusted with deputyship responsibilities should strive to create a fair process at all times. Despite working in the interests of the man lacking capacity, the firm have exposed a negligence that resulted in the unintentional exploitation of a vulnerable person.
How important is working accurately when it involves somebody lacking capacity or any vulnerable person? Are cases like this common?