A day in the life of… Tonina Ashby

1st April 2022

I qualified into an area of law typically referred to as ‘private client’ or ‘wills and probate’. It is a varied and practical area of law which impacts us all at one point or another in our lives. I am part of the firm’s OVP team, specialising in dealing with older and more vulnerable individuals who may lack mental capacity. It is a rewarding, yet complex and often sensitive area of practice and no two days are ever the same for me.

First thing on the agenda for the day is a meeting with the local police force to discuss protections against the financial abuse of vulnerable people. As a lawyer specialising in Court of Protection work, I am often involved in cases where trusted family or friends have abused their position and their power as attorneys or joint account holders.

I have been working with the police, local councils and the Ministry of Justice to tackle this issue and to encourage better co-operation between us all to protect the most vulnerable in our society. That often involves discussing new initiatives with these organisations, providing training to them about Lasting Powers of Attorney or providing independent expert testimony for their cases.

Next up is a meeting with the parents of a young man who has complex medical needs after an injury at birth left him unable to make his own decisions. He is soon turning 18 and his parents have been told that they will no longer be able to make decisions for him after he reaches adulthood. This seems an injustice when his condition means that he will sadly never gain the ability to make these decisions himself.

Thankfully, I am able to support them with an application to the Court of Protection for authority to act as his deputies going forwards. We decide that his case is sufficiently complex to justify an application to manage both his financial affairs and his general personal welfare. Orders for the latter are rarely granted, but his particular circumstances mean that the application is likely to succeed.

I also support them with planning their wills, so that they can leave their inheritance in an appropriate trust to be managed for the benefit of their son in the future.

With the clients’ permission, I make a call to a case manager to discuss their son’s case. The case manager will be able to lend support and assistance to the clients throughout their son’s medical negligence case and beyond. This ensures he has access to appropriate therapies, assessments and rehabilitation to give him the best chance of independence and a good quality of life.

After lunch I have a video call with the team’s paralegal, Hila, to discuss a case she is working on with me. We are supporting some attorneys with some general advice about their role and duties, as well as reviewing some paperwork which relates to care funding. It can be a minefield of information for those who do not seek professional advice. Part of my role as a partner is to act as Hila’s supervisor. This means reviewing Hila’s work and providing appropriate support and guidance to develop her knowledge for her career.

Time to check my e-mails again. Hannah has put together some initial terms of business to go out to some new enquiries: a young couple who are looking to make a will after the birth of their second child; and a gentleman who is looking to make Lasting Powers of Attorney. I check these and make any amendments so that they can be sent.

There are some internal e-mails about news throughout the firm, some upcoming social events and a draft article which has been prepared by the team’s trainee, Alex. Again, part of my role is to support Alex during his time in the private client team by providing training which supports him to develop and broaden his skills and knowledge in this area. It is important to ensure that trainees have sufficient ‘hands on’ practical experience and access to a variety of legal issues during their time in the department. It is also a good opportunity to showcase this area of law so that Alex can get a good idea of what team he may want to qualify into.

I then have a call from a dementia nurse who supports one of the individuals for whom I act as a professional deputy. I am often asked to take on this role for families who prefer to have someone independent with the experience and knowledge to navigate the complexities of this area of practice. We arrange a meeting to discuss the care plan in more detail and to ensure this still meets my client’s needs.

My final planned meeting of the day is with the son of a lady with advanced dementia, who wishes to challenge a recent decision about his mother’s care funding. We discuss his mother’s current care and support needs and review her ‘DST’. This is a Decision Support Tool used by the NHS to screen individuals to determine whether or not they should have access to full NHS funding for their care. It is a high threshold to meet, but we feel that his mum’s health needs are sufficiently unpredictable and complex to justify further investigation and we agree on a course of action.

Finally, I have a call from the children of a lady who has recently passed away. They are named as executors on the will, need advice and don’t know quite where to start. I agree to send out some initial guidance and we arrange a meeting to discuss the matter in more detail next week.

I end the day with a review of the diary to see what tomorrow has in store.

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