What is a court appointed deputy?

What is a court appointed deputy? And what is the difference between a deputy and an attorney? Tracy Ashby of Wright Hassall explains the role and responsibilities of a court appointed deputy.

Court Deputy

What is a deputy?

A deputy is an individual or trust corporation appointed by the Court of Protection on behalf of someone who ‘lacks mental capacity’. Being appointed gives a deputy the legal authority to act on behalf of someone and make decisions about their property and financial affairs and/or their health and welfare.

A deputy can be authorised to make decisions regarding:

  1. property and financial affairs – for example, arrange payments of bills, dispose of property or receive monies, such as a pension
  2. health and welfare – for example, make decisions about how a person is cared for and what medical treatment they receive. The person must be at least 16 years old to have a health and welfare deputy appointed

The Court of Protection will make an order to appoint a deputy which will outline what the deputy can and cannot do. For example, the deputy may have authority to deal with decisions on an indefinite basis or instead may be appointed to make a single decision.

When does someone lack mental capacity?

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides that “a person lacks capacity in relation to a matter if at the material time he is unable to make a decision for himself in relation to the matter because of an impairment of, or a disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain. It does not matter whether the impairment or disturbance is permanent or temporary.”

This means that a person lacks capacity if they are unable to make a decision for themselves in relation to a given matter if, with appropriate assistance as necessary, the person is unable to understand the information relevant to the decision, to retain that information, to use or weigh that information as part of the process of making the decision or to communicate his decision by whatever means.

It should be noted that a person may have capacity to be able to make some decisions for themselves, but not others – a deputy must allow them to make their own decisions if they have capacity to do so, even if the deputy considers the decision unwise.

What are the responsibilities of a deputy?

A deputy is responsible for making decisions on behalf of a person when they cannot do so themselves. In doing this, a deputy must consider the level of mental capacity that the person has in relation to each decision and what is in that person’s best interests.

The deputy should consider the previous decisions and actions of the person for whom they act and must operate to a high standard of care, so may need to obtain advice from professionals and relatives.

Property and financial affairs deputies have additional responsibilities in order to keep the vulnerable person’s property safe and money separate from their own.

An appointed deputy must send a yearly report to the Office of the Public Guardian to explain all the decisions they have made. The Mental Capacity Act 2005: Code of Practice provides general rules and examples to help deputies navigate their role.

Who can act as a deputy?

To become a deputy, you must be at least 18 years old and consent to your appointment. Deputies are usually close relatives or a friend of the person needing help with making decisions, however deputies can be professionals such as a lawyer or accountant. A trust corporation can also be appointed as a deputy to deal with a person’s property and financial affairs.

The Court of Protection ultimately decides who will be appointed. It is possible for there to be different deputies in relation to financial decisions and welfare decisions. 

What is the difference between a deputy and an attorney?

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is created by a person when they have capacity to decide who should look after their health and welfare and/or property and financial affairs should they lose capacity in the future. Therefore, a deputy is usually not needed where a person has already made an LPA.

An application to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy is made by the proposed deputy and should only be made when a person lacks the mental capacity to make the required decisions. At this point, it is not possible to make an LPA.

How do you become a deputy?

You must apply to the Court of Protection to become a deputy. To do this you must complete and send the correct application forms which include an assessment of capacity and declaration to the Court of Protection. Payment of the application fee will also need to be made.

You will need to demonstrate that you meet the requirements to become a deputy and notify at least three people who are related to the person about whom the application is being made, or, if not a relative, someone who has, at the very least, an interest in their wellbeing. You will also need to provide supporting information in relation to the type of decisions you are applying for.


Being appointed as a deputy by the Court of Protection is one way of obtaining legal authority to make decisions on a person’s behalf if that person no longer has mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. Therefore, obtaining deputyship can help a vulnerable or elderly person to manage and protect their property and financial affairs and/or health and welfare if they have not made arrangements in advance.

About the author

Tracy Ashby is Partner and Head of Private Client at Wright Hassall who specialises in advising clients on care fee funding and protecting vulnerable clients.

See also

Everything you need to know about testamentary capacity

What you need to know about lasting power of attorney (LPA)

A guide to the Court of Protection

Find out more

Mental Capacity Act 2005 (Legislation)

Mental Capacity Act 2005: Code of Practice (GOV.UK)

Deputies: make decisions for someone who lacks capacity (GOV.UK)

Image: Getty Images

Publication date: 17 May 2021

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.