This related to an application to determine whether the P’s property was included in ‘net assets’ when deciding whether or not her net assets were above or below £16,000. HHJ Hilder determined that property is to be included in net assets.
The issue in Penntrust Ltd was whether net assets included the value of the P’s house which had been valued in excess of £300,000. If it was, the panel deputy could seek SCCO assessment of its costs.
Practice Direction 19B para 12 provides the following;
- In cases where fixed costs are not appropriate, professionals may, if preferred, apply to the SCCO for a detailed assessment of costs. However, this does not apply if P’s net assets are below £16,000 where the option for detailed assessment will only arise if the court makes a specific order for detailed assessment in relation to an estate with net assets of a value of less than £16,000.
The court held that “net assets” for the purposes of PD19B as applicable to professional deputy costs for remuneration periods ending on or after 1 April 2017 should be understood to have its ordinary meaning of “total assets less total liabilities”. P’s occupation of property does not exclude it from the quantification of assets for the purposes of the Practice Direction. The Applicant was always authorised by the deputyship order to obtain SCCO assessment of its costs.
For future and to avoid the necessity for proceedings such as these, Senior Judge Hilder held that:
“…where a deputy is appointed in respect of a net estate worth – at the time of appointment – less than £16 000 (within the meaning current at the time of appointment) but with authority to seek SCCO assessment, the decision-maker (either judge or Authorised Court Officer) should make explicit reference to the nature of the estate and paragraph 12 of PD19B in the wording of the order (as has been the practice at the central registry for some time.) Additionally, the deputy should check the terms of the costs authorisation carefully on first receipt of the order. If it includes the option of SCCO assessment but does not expressly confirm that such authorisation applies even where the net estate is worth less than £16 000 for the purposes of paragraph 12 of Practice Direction 19B, the deputy should make a speedy COP9 application pursuant to Rule 13.4 of the Court of Protection Rules 2017 for reconsideration. Such an approach would be of minimal cost to P and would avoid future argument” (para 86).