Role and Appointment
The Committee of the person (a role usually held by one designated person) is responsible for the personal care of a ward of court.
The Committee of the estate acts on behalf of the ward in n the management of his assets and financial affairs. As with the Committee of the person, the appointee is likely to be a spouse or close next of kin, unless there is a good reason to the contrary.
There may be more than one Committee. There may be separate Committees of the person and the estate (property).
The Committee is usually a spouse or a close next of kin of the ward. The spouse may not be appointed if there are reasons why he or she is unsuitable in the circumstances.
Account is taken of the ward’s preferences where he is capable of understanding the issues concerned. Certain persons including proprietors of hospitals, care homes and institutions, fellow residents, doctors, and employees of such hospitals, care homes or institutions may not be appointed as the ward.
The person who petitions to have a person made a ward may be appointed Committee but he or she is in no stronger position than any other person. There may not be a Committee of the estate where the person’s assets were simply transferred into court.
Where a Committee dies or is released, another person may be appointed. An application for the appointment of a substitute Committee may be made to the President of the High Court or to the Registrar.
The Committee of the estate must give security for the fulfilment of these duties. The amount is directed by the Registrar of the Wards of Court Office. The amount required will depend on the extent of the ward’s assets. It is generally double the amount of the ward’s gross income
Security may be provided by entering upon with guarantor/security. It may be guaranteed by an insurance company.
Duties of Committee of Person
The Committee of the person must attend to the ward’s care and treatment. He or she must visit and report on his or her needs to the Office of Wards of Court. The Committee must allow the medical visitors and Office of Wards of Court officials to visit without prior notice.
The Committee must make returns periodically, giving details of the ward’s residence, mental condition, maintenance, comfort and any other matters required. If there are particular needs in relation to health or wellbeing, these should be reported to the registrar. An application might then be made for any necessary payments or authorisation.
Duties of Committee of Estate
The Committee of the estate is responsible for the good management of the ward’s assets. He owes a duty to the court and is under the direction of the Office of Wards of Court and the President of the High Court. If a ward dies the Committee’s role terminates, but he remains responsible for his assets and properties.
The Committee is responsible for paying and receiving the ward’s income. He is responsible for payments for the maintenance and benefit of the ward. Where monies are received they must be accounted for by the Committee in the same manner as a trustee.
The Committee of the estate may be authorised by the President to do certain acts and things on behalf of the ward. An individual application for authorisation is required. This may include the sale of land, transfer of business, entry into and surrender of leases.
The Committee may be authorised to exercise powers. The Committee may appoint agents including legal representatives for such purposes.
The Committee must prepare and produce accounts to the Office of Wards of Court at intervals decided by the Office. They must specify receipts and expenditure of money. The relevant bank account particulars and accounts must be lodged with the Office of Wards of Court.
The Committee must submit an annual return in a prescribed format. This must set out details of the ward’s assets, deductions, income, payments, expenditure and sums paid for the maintenance of the ward.
If the account is unsatisfactory, the registrar may commence an investigation. A special report may be required. If the Committee fails to comply with his or her obligations, he may be removed in the absence of satisfactory explanation.
Expenses and Costs
The Registrar may allow expenses included in the Committee’s accounts that are just and proper and have been properly and reasonably incurred for the benefit of the ward. Expenses may be disallowed, upon an application by persons with an interest in the ward or his estate.
The Committee is not allowed costs for work done for him personally. In contrast, works that require professional assistance may be allowed. Since 2002 wards have been allowed remuneration on such terms as may be specified.
Most cases will be dealt with by the registrar. In the case of non-routine or risky matters, the matter may be referred to the President of the High Court and the views of medical visitors may be required.
The High Court has the power to consent to treatment for wards of court. The Committee should apply to the registrar requesting consent. Consent is not required in a sudden emergency.
In extreme cases, the question of continued life support may arise. In a case, in the mid-1990s the Supreme Court by majority consented to the withdrawal of artificial support for a patient with irreversible brain damage who have been in a vegetative state for 23 years.
The Supreme Court proceeded on the basis of a prudent parent test, having regard to the best interests of the ward. One judge dissented on the basis that the deliberate removal of artificial support would infringe the ward’s right to life.
In another case, a party in a coma who was, and whose husband was a member of the Jehovah’s Wtiness religion refused a blood transfusion. The High Court authorised the treatment notwithstanding that it was against the apparent religious beliefs and the wishes of the person concerned. The patient had discussed her preferences for treatment for the husband and had refused to sign consent to treatment during a lucid interval.
A receiver may be appointed to take possession of the ward’s assets. The principal purpose is to preserve the assets. He or she may be appointed as necessary or expedient. A receiver owes a duty to the court. He is subject to the control of the President of the High Court. His powers are specified in the appointment.
A receiver is obliged to account to the Registrar of the Office of Wards of Court. He must give security. Monies must be lodged separately. Annual returns are required. Remuneration may be allowed to a receiver. This may be fixed as a percentage or otherwise determined by the Office of Wards of Court.
Costs may not be allowed for works done personally which do not require the assistance of contractors and advisers. Where expenses have been properly and reasonably incurred for the benefit of the ward, they may be allowed as may be deemed proper.
Guardian & Temporary Wardship
Guardians have similar obligations to those of Committees of the estate and receivers. They are appointed in respect of temporary wardship.
Guardians must give security for their appointment. They must account annually or at such intervals as the Office of Wards of Court may determine. They must keep separate accounts and make annual returns. A guardian must make a monthly return of assets sold, conveyed or disposed of.
Guardians may not generally be allowed the costs of work undertaken personally. They may however be allowed expenses. They may be allowed remuneration on terms and conditions as may be specified by the court.
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