Family members may have to pay the costs of court disputes over the estates of people with dementia and similar conditions.
The Court of Protection makes rulings in cases involving people who lack ‘capacity’ – the ability to make decisions about their own welfare and best interests, most commonly due to learning difficulties or the onset of dementia. Currently if family members become embroiled in legal disputes over the person’s property, affairs or care, the associated costs are usually paid out of their estate.
But the Court of Protection Rules Committee is now preparing a consultation paper on the issue, the Law Society Gazette reports, considering in particular whether judges should be allowed to make family members pay such costs.
It is not yet known when the consultation would be launched.
Stowe Family Law solicitor Duncan Watson said:
“I agree, in principle, with the proposal. What is important is that a vulnerable person’s estate is put to their best use, not used to fund disputes that indulge family members with an axe to grind. The important thing about the proposal is that the court would have the discretion to order parties to proceedings pay for them, though it can still direct that the cost is borne by the estate. This would not prohibit people from making reasonable applications. We will need to see what the consultation contains, and the policy that comes out of it.”