Committeeship in BC
A “Committee” is a guardian appointed by the B.C. Supreme Court to manage the personal, medical, legal or financial affairs of an adult who is mentally incapable of doing so – that person is referred to as the “Patient”. A Patient may be mentally incapable because of disease, accident, use of drugs, or age. Or, a Patient may be mentally incapable from birth.
A Committee must act in the Patient’s best interests and generally has the same power over the Patient’s estate as the Patient has when they are capable, with the exception of making a Will, voting or entering into a marriage.
Appointing a Committee is a serious step because it takes away the Patient’s right to decide things for themselves. It is usually a last resort when nothing else will work.
The preferable alternative to a Committee Order is for a person to sign an Enduring Power of Attorney and Representation Agreement prior to becoming incapable. However, if a person is already incapable, they are unable to sign a Power of Attorney and may only be able to sign a limited Representation Agreement, if at all.
You might want to be a Committee if one of your family members or close friends has lost the mental capacity to make important decisions and you want to help. The Patient may be losing track of bank accounts, forgetting to pay bills, or at risk of being taken advantage of by dishonest people. In the case of an accident, the Patient may be unconscious and unable to decide anything, including where and how to live.
Your responsibilities as a Committee can include the following things:
- handling the Patient’s property
- doing the Patient’s banking
- paying the Patient’s expenses
- budgeting for the Patient’s family
- selling the Patient’s personal property and real estate
- entering into contracts for the Patient and operating the Patient’s business
- dealing with any lawsuits involving the Patient
- filing the Patient’s income tax returns
- applying for the Patient’s pension and other benefits
- making medical decisions for the Patient
- deciding where and how the Patient should live
A Committee has important fiduciary duties and the decision to become a Committee should not be taken lightly. Everything you do on behalf of the Patient must be in their best interests. You must keep detailed records of everything you do with a Patient’s assets and make an accounting to the Public Guardian and Trustee at regular intervals. The Public Guardian and Trustee also reviews reports of abuse or mismanagement by the committee.
To become a Committee, you must make an application to the Court to be appointed. The application must be supported by two doctors’ opinions as to the Patient’s ability to manage their affairs or their person, a recommendation from the Public Guardian and Trustee and the Patient’s assets and liabilities must be disclosed to the Court.
A Patient may oppose the Committeeship application. Also, if the Patient becomes capable again, they or you can apply to court to cancel your appointment as Committee.
A lawyer can help you to understand the wide range of issues that arise with the preparation of committee application documents. If you would like advice regarding the preparation of these important legal documents or for more information regarding such matters please contact Chahal Priddle LLP at 250-372-3233 to set up an appointment today.