Making Court of Protection work less of a burden….and more profitable
An ageing population has seen a rise in the number of people being overseen by the Office of the Public Guardian, and with that a rise in the workload for already busy private client practitioners. As individuals we often struggle to keep track of our own finances and paperwork, so how can practitioners manage when all of that paperwork is multiplied by however many cases they have?
In the beginning…
This was an issue a client of ours was experiencing. They had a number of high net worth clients and were already carrying out probate and trust work which had led to them expanding into Court of Protection work. However, as practitioners are aware, costs are closely scrutinised by the OPG making it difficult for the work to be profitable. Many aspects of the administration involved in Court of Protection work are also time consuming, with constantly entering a client’s name on various different forms, keeping track of records and also maintaining accounting records, often using spreadsheets with all its inherent risks.
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Practitioners are also not keen to buy a separate product as due to the cost constraints involved in COP work, the cost of buying a new product in addition to a trust and probate product can be prohibitive.
Is there a solution out there?
There are various software packages out there that claim to deal with Court of Protection work. However, many of these are case management systems that cover producing the LPA and registering it with the Court, yet it is life beyond the initial application which is often where the pain lies. Finding a system that will deal with both the initial application and the on-going annual administration involved in running a deputyship, including completion of the nightmare that is the OPG102 form, can be difficult.
A star is born
So back to our client. They approached us and asked if we could help. They already knew we could deal with the accounting aspects because of our trust system and that we could also export data into forms as we had developed this for our probate product. So a simple matter of sticking things together then! (I’m not sure the programmers see it like this of course).
We set to work in conjunction with our client to develop the Court of Protection product. They kindly spent time explaining the purpose behind each COP form and the information the OPG are looking for and we painstakingly built each specification in the software. The end result is our Court of Protection product.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain that what you need is a product that holds a database of who’s who connected with your client, eg deputy, doctor, social worker etc, a list of assets including stock market investments and bank accounts and processing repeating transactions. Let’s face it I’m sure none of you spent your time studying at university to continually spend your working hours inputting Council Tax, TV licence etc payments every month. This is the fundamental principal behind the product, every relationship, every transaction, every asset, all held together and displayed in a simplified format.
Taking care of the details
- Reduce data entry
Practitioners only need to enter the name and other details of the client once. Whenever a form is generated be that a COP1 or an OPG102 the name will pull through, together with all other details such as address, telephone number etc.
- Asset tracking
Stock market investments are held in their own ledger, keeping track of the investment history, capital gains tax information and dividend history. The system can also work in conjunction with a datafeed that brings in market values and dividends.
Other assets, such as properties and vehicles are held in a separate asset ledger and again full reporting can be obtained.
Troika can also keep track of all those bank accounts people have with lots of small amounts in them! In addition cash held within client account can also be tracked.
- OPG102 and accounts production
Income and expenditure posted through Troika is matched to the relevant boxes on the OPG102. This means that when a transaction is posted through Troika, eg the TV licence, it will automatically appear in the correct part of the OPG102. When the OPG102 is generated, a separate page for each bank account will also be produced.
Some of our clients, particularly where they act as a professional Deputy, prefer to also produce separate accounts. However the cost of accounts production cannot be allowed for often leaving our clients taking a “hit” on fees. However, with Troika the income and expenditure codes that are used for the production of the OPG102 are also used within the accounts. Users therefore need to only make one entry and this will appear on both the form and the accounts.
- Overall management
By keeping Troika up-to-date practitioners can always have at their fingertips cash balances, asset and investment records, together with details of upcoming cash transactions.
Workflows can be added to the system, these are entirely customisable and therefore can be designed to match the way you work. There are also full diary and key dates options with traffic light warnings to alert users whenever action needs to be taken.
For those who are acting as a Deputy, but not carrying out the day to day work, they can keep an eye on what is happening via Connect. This is an intranet module which allows others in the firm, no matter where they are located, to view all the information contained within Troika using a standard web browser.
Looking to the future
This is an emerging area for practitioners, but cost constraints mean that you can only grow this area of practice by working in the most efficient way. Re-thinking how you work by moving away from spreadsheets and continual duplication of information towards innovative technological solutions and assigning more repetitive work to lower grade staff is really the only way forward.
If you would like to find out more about Troika for Court of Protection, click here: http://www.thewealthworks.com/court-of-protection/
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