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Mental Capacity Act 2005

Explains how the Mental Capacity Act affects you and how you can plan ahead for when you no longer have the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself. Applies to England and Wales.

What's a deputy?

A deputy is a person the Court of Protection appoints to make decisions for you. They can do this when you’ve lost capacity to make decisions yourself.

A deputy is different to an attorney. An attorney is someone you appoint yourself, while you still have capacity.

The court can appoint two different types of deputy. This is either to make decisions about your personal welfare, or to make decisions about your property and affairs.

The Court generally appoints deputies to make decisions about property and affairs. For example, if you have regular care home fees that you need to pay. Or if you have property which needs some work done on it before it can be sold.

The Court will usually appoint a deputy if:

The Court can decide:

  • The length of the appointment
  • What level of supervision you need from a deputy
  • What fees you'll have to pay the Court (the UK Government website has information about court fees)
  • Whether the deputy should be paid for their work from your income or savings

The Court may ask your deputy to pay a security deposit before they spend any of your money. And ask them to keep regular accounts of when they spend your money.

If your finances are complex, it’s more likely that the Court would appoint a professional deputy, who might be paid with your money.

The Court can also make a one-off decision for you without appointing a deputy.

Who could be my deputy?

A deputy can be a friend, family member or professional with the right skills. But they must:

  • Be aged 18 years or older
  • Have the mental capacity to be your deputy

Anyone applying to the Court of Protection to act as your deputy would need to show that:

  • It’s in your best interests. This means considering your values, views and preferences, and consulting people who play an important part in your life
  • They have the skills and ability to carry out the duties of a deputy
  • They’ll be trustworthy and reliable

The UK Government website has information on how to apply to be a deputy. This includes a page where you can apply to be a Property and Affairs deputy.

Are there any decisions a deputy isn't allowed to make?

A deputy usually cannot make a decision that:

  • They’re not authorised to make by the Court of Protection
  • You have the capacity to make yourself
  • Restrains you or your freedom of movement, unless the Court of Protection has authorised this
  • Uses force to prevent you from doing something or going somewhere
  • Goes against a decision made by your attorney acting under a lasting power of attorney
  • Refuses any treatment that would help you to stay alive for longer, should you develop a life-threatening medical condition in the future
  • You’ve already covered in an advance decision

But a deputy appointed to make healthcare or personal care decisions on your behalf will usually be able to decide matters such as:

  • Where you'll live
  • Who you’ll be able to have contact with. But they cannot permanently ban contact with someone
  • Whether or not you should have medical treatment, except for life-sustaining treatment and some unusual or complex medical procedures

The Court won't appoint a healthcare or welfare deputy unless there's a need to make regular welfare decisions. The Court will usually make a one-off decision itself, rather than appoint a deputy. For example, if there's a disagreement over where you should live.  

What happens if a deputy doesn't act in my best interests?

The Court of Protection can remove a deputy, or change the type of authority they have to make decisions for you, if they've:

  • Not acted in your best interests
  • Become incapable of acting as your deputy
  • Acted outside of their powers

The Office of the Public Guardian supervises deputies. You, or anyone supporting you, can complain to them if you have concerns about the way a deputy is acting. This includes if you feel they aren’t acting in your best interests.

This information was published in April 2023. We'll revise it in 2026.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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