The Court of protection world has faced an overhaul as electronic filing has now become mandatory in order for Costs to be assessed; given recent events, just in the nick of time.
The costs incurred by a Court Appointed Deputy are to be assessed on an annual basis, the original Court Order appointing the deputy sets out the general management period and right for the assessment of costs. It is preferential for costs to be assessed rather than fixed costs being claimed especially in more complex matters, due to the fact costs often exceed those under PD 19B. The court requires a 3-column Bill of Costs to be submitted to the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO), however gone are the days when the bundle incorporating the Bill of Costs and order for costs was simply posted to the SCCO along with a cheque.
The electronic filing (e-filing) process was introduced as a pilot on the 7th October 2019 but soon after became mandatory as of the 20th January 2020.
For those still getting the grips with the new process, we outline this as follows:-
1. Practitioners must first register their account using the following link (https://efile.cefile-app.com/register/new ). Alternative ‘teams’ can be set up either internally or externally (to include your instructed Costs specialists) so that the whole team will be notified when the filing has been approved; this allows for a more efficient process enabling other relevant people to view the progress of the assessment – especially handy when your costs provider is handling the filing on your behalf allowing you to track progress.
2. Once registered you will then have to submit the bundle electronically, this includes the bill, request for assessment, N258B and a copy of the order. Each of these must be submitted under the correct sub-heading to avoid filing being rejected. A huge benefit to the e-filing is improved security and compliance; previously issues were often encountered sending documents in the post/DX where confidential documents could often become lost or simply not be delivered. The electronic system allows you to track when the clerks approve your documents meaning you know that the court has received your application for costs to be assessed.
3. However, the move to e-filing has meant the SCCO no longer accepts cheques, therefore the £85.00 court fee must be made by PBA account or alternatively there is an option to pay by card. This has been the main sticking point for many a COP department as many were not aware that e-filing was becoming mandatory and therefore did not, and in fact still do not have a PBA account set up. It has forced many firms into registering for a PBA account.
4. Once all the documents have been submitted in PDF format and the court fee paid, this will reviewed by the court and the submission will either be approved or rejected. If the submission is rejected they will give you a reason for rejection, allowing you to amend the documents/filing and resubmit. Nb – a further fee of £85.00 will be required to re-submit the bundle. It is not clear whether the re-submission fee will be refunded.
5. When the bundle has been approved, you will be given a court reference number; this number will need to be noted for quoting when submitting the next annual management Bill. At this point you are required to lodge the physical files with the court, quoting the reference number on all folders/boxers to allow the papers to be placed with the correct assessment. Once approved you will be able to see the Master assigned to your matter, so if you have any further queries it is now much easier to speak to a clerk than it has been previously.
6. When the court has received the papers they will then assess the bill in the usual format and return to you by post. The time in which you will receive your assessed bill back depends on the court backlog. But the current process means that once the bill is assessed it will be returned by post with the files.
7. Once you have received the assessed bill you will have 14 days to decide to appeal the assessed bill or if you are happy with the assessed bill you will have to e-file the assessed bill along with the front summary sheet completed and the draft Final Costs Certificate. Once this has been approved you will receive the FCC in the post.
This new process is certainly a step in the right direction, with more deputies’ becoming paper light and introducing new electronic systems. However, practitioners remain unable to send their files in electronic form; it is only the assessment bundle that must be filed electronically. Additionally, the original guidelines stated that you would receive the assessed bill electronically, however, this has not been the case as of yet. Undoubtedly this will soon change with the forced changes to ways of working that COVID-19 has placed on the Courts generally; it is our hope that the court will take this further step in the right direction and begin accepting files in electronic format and returning electronic assessments in the not too distant future.
Since the e-filing process has become integrated into our everyday practice, it has allowed us as a firm to increase the speed in which bills can be assessed and subsequently payment of your management costs. It is a much more efficient process from submission to receiving the FCC, cutting administration time and reducing overhead costs.
At R Costings we are specialised in preparing, submitting and reviewing Court of Protection Bills, avoiding the need for re-submission (and that potential additional Court Fee) and advising and progressing necessary appeals. Our experience allows us to remove the administration work from your busy team, and we can safely and securely transfer your client files to the Court utilising our free in-house courier service. Please contact Kate@rcostings.co.uk or Megan@rcostings.co.uk to find out more about how we can help you going forwards, or call us on 01480 463499.