Adult Guardianship (15:V)
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on September 1, 2020.|
In BC, adult guardianship (called ‘committeeship’) is currently governed by two acts: the Patients Property Act, [PPA] and the Adult Guardianship Act, [AGA]. The PPA allows a judge to appoint a committee (pronounced caw-mi-TEE, with emphasis on the end of the word). Part 2.1 of the AGA contains a statutory process by which the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) becomes the ‘Statutory Property Guardian’. All committees, whether an individual or the PGT, are legally authorized to make decisions for the patient.
The two different processes for creating a committeeship are quite different and are governed by different legislation. It is important to identify which type of committeeship is present or being sought. In the rest of this section, a committeeship created under the PPA is referred to as a ‘court order committeeship’ while one created under the AGA is referred to as a ‘statutory process committeeship’. These are not technical or legal phrases but used solely for clarity. Details for the two types are produced below.
An individual subject to committeeship, or the possibility of committeeship, may present as extremely upset, angry or confused. To best assist this individual, it is important to understand the gravity of the situation for the individual, and why the individual may be feeling this way. Keep in mind that the effect of a committeeship is that the adult loses their decision-making rights.
Adults may consult CLAS and the Public Guardian and Trustee for more information on committeeship. The Public Guardian and Trustee produces a number of helpful publications on committeeships. The resources can be found at http://www.trustee.bc.ca/reports-and-publications/Pages/default.aspx. It is also advisable to contact an Estate and Guardianship Litigation Lawyer, possibly through the Law Society’s Lawyer Referral Service (604-687-3221).
A. Patients Property Act: Court-Ordered Committeeship
A court may appoint a committee to manage a patient’s affairs (the estate), their person or both. A court-ordered committeeship and its application is a Supreme Court procedure: provincial courts do not have jurisdiction in this regard.
Section 1 of the PPA provides the following definitions:
• A ‘patient’ is a person who is in incapable of managing their affairs or themselves, due to mental infirmity, disease, age etc.
• A ‘committee’ can be an appointed individual, the PGT, or a statutory property guardian
1. Types of Committees
a) Committee of the Estate
A committee of the estate has the authority to make financial and legal decisions on the patient’s behalf. This routinely includes:
• Controlling the patient’s income
• Conducting banking
• Paying expenses
• Selling real property
b) Committee of the Person
A committee of the person holds the authority to make decisions regarding the patient’s health and well-being, place of residence, and admission to a care facility.
A committee of the person can only be appointed by the court.
A patient may have either a committee of the estate, a committee of the person, or both. Usually, but not always, a person who is incapable of managing their personal health care decisions is also incapable of handling financial and legal decisions. Therefore, a committee of the person is frequently coupled with a committee of the estate. It may be that the same individual is appointed to a committeeship comprising both estate and person, or it may be that separate individuals are appointed to each committeeship.
2. The Court Ordered Committeeship Process
There are two steps involved in appointing a committee for an individual who is incapable:
• An order must be made by the Supreme Court declaring that the patient is incapable of managing their own affairs and/or person
• The court appoints one or more individuals as Committee of the estate and/or the person
a) Declaration of Patient Incapability
An individual must be declared incapable of managing their affairs (either financial, personal, or both) before the court can appoint a committee.
1. Section 2 of the PPA provides that the Attorney General, a near relative or the subject, or any other person may file an application to the court for an order declaring incapability.
2. The court will then consider the affidavits of two medical practitioners who provide their opinion on the incapacity of the subject. The medical practitioners must be members of the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons.
3. In addition to the medical practitioners’ affidavits, the applicant must swear an ‘affidavit of kindred and fortune’, which as the name suggests, set out particulars of the patient’s family and financial affairs. The affidavit of kindred and fortune must be in a prescribed form (Form 3), as set out in the Patients Property Act Rules.
4. The court then may decide whether the subject is incapable based on the affidavit material before it on the application, or it may proceed:
a) To direct the issue to be tried, following the Supreme Court Civil Rules
b) By order, to require the person to undergo an additional examination with either:
i) One or more medical practitioners other than those whose affidavits were before the court, or
ii) A board of 3 or more medical practitioners designated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia at the request of the court This additional examination can be requested by the patient and cannot be refused by the court unless the court believes the patient is not mentally competent to form and express the request (PPA s 5)
NOTE: It is very rare for the issue to be tried, and the court will most commonly opt to order another assessment if the medical affidavit evidence is disputed.
5. Notice of the application to the courts must be personally served on the subject not less than 10 days prior to the date of the application hearing. See s 2(2) of the PPA. This requirement may be waived if the court is satisfied that to serve notice of the application would injure the subject’s health, or would otherwise be inadvisable in the interests of the subject.
• In order for a waiver of notice to be granted, there must be a medical affidavit advising the court that it would be injurious to the health of the adult to be served with notice of the application. The affidavit must demonstrate this clearly and provide evidence, it is not sufficient to simply restate the language of the statute. A discussion on this can be found in T.H.N et al v Q.V.L., 2000 BCSC 24.
In summary, the court application must include:
• Petition (Supreme Court Civil Rules, BC Reg 168/2009 2-1(2))
• Affidavit of Service (unless notice requirement was waived)
• Affidavit of Kindred and Fortune setting out next of kin and financial circumstances of patient (PPA Rules, Rule 2(3))
• Affidavit from two physicians (PPA, s 3(1))
• Notice of Application to Appoint a Committee (PPA Rules, Rule 2(2))
• Chamber Order to Appoint a Committee
While it is not required to include consent of the next of kin, it is recommended. See below.
b) Resisting a Declaration of Incapability
If the subject of the application wishes to oppose it, they are well advised to have a lawyer for the application hearing.
c) Challenging Affidavits
The affidavits of the medical practitioners may be challenged. Under the PPA, s 5(2), the judge may order that the subject be examined by one or more duly qualified medical practitioners other than those whose affidavits were before the court. The judge may also order an examination by a board of three or more duly qualified medical practitioners designated by BC’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. The medical affidavits provided should not be older than 6 months, and should clearly lay out the diagnosis, clinical findings and prognosis of the patient.
Section 5(3) of the PPA provides that the judge must order such an examination if the subject asks unless the court or judge is satisfied that the person is not mentally competent to form and express the request.
d) Subsequent Applications
If a person is declared incapable by the court, that person can apply to the court after one year, for a declaration that they are no longer incapable. However, such an application cannot be made by the person or anyone else more than once per year, except by leave of a judge. Affidavit evidence of two medical practitioners will be required to support the application (PPA s 4).
e) Appointment of a Committee
Once the patient has been declared incapable, the judge will appoint a committee. This appointment is governed by the PPA.
f) Private Committee
A family member, friend, or any other person can apply to the court to become a committee of the patient.
The PPA, Patient Property Act Rules, BC Reg 311/76 (PPA Rules) and the Supreme Court Civil Rules, BC Reg 168/2009 govern the application process.
Although the PPA does not say who else should be served, in practice the proposed committee should obtain consents to their appointment as committee from next-of-kin, or if they do not consent, serve the next-of-kin with the application and supporting affidavits.
If the committee was nominated by the patient prior to incapability, then the written nomination should also be included (see below). In addition, if the applicant was appointed attorney, representative or executor, it would be useful to include proof of this in the application. If they were appointed as attorney, representative or executor, they will likely be exempted from the requirement to post security.
g) Notice to the Public Guardian and Trustee
Section 7 of the PPA provides that notice in writing of the application must be served on the Public Guardian and Trustee not less than 10 days prior to the hearing of the application and, if applicable, to a committee already appointed. The PGT can review the application and oppose the appointment if the applicant is considered unsuitable. The PGT may also impose terms on the committee or make recommendations to the court that conditions be imposed on the committee. The PGT will file a Response, setting out the position of the PGT on the appropriateness of the applicant to act as committee and will make recommendations with respect to bonding or restrictions upon the committee’s management of the adult’s affairs.
h) Nomination of Committee by Patient
Under s 9 of the PPA, an individual has the power to nominate a committee of their choice. However, the person nominated cannot serve as a committee until appointed by the court. The nomination must be in writing and signed by the person when they were of full age and of sound and disposing mind (i.e. before the court declares them incapable). A person may want to execute a nomination and have a lawyer hold it in reserve to be released if there is an application for the appointment of a committee.
The nomination must be executed in accordance with the requirements for the making of a will under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, which are that it must be in writing, signed by the nominator and properly witnessed (WESA s 37).
Note that members of military forces are exempt from some of the formal requirements; see the WESA s 38.
Other than compliance with the WESA, there are no formal requirements for the nomination of a committee. Therefore, a brief, clear statement may be best.
E. g.: ‘In the event of my becoming mentally incapacitated, I hereby nominate <name of nominee> as my committee. <Signed and Dated. > Witnessed in the presence of the signatory, who signed in our presence. <Signature of Witnesses>.’
Each witness must be present at the time the other witness ascribed their name on the document. For a full precedent, see Wills Precedents: An Annotated Guide, Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, 2019 (Bogardus, Wetzel & Hamilton).
If the nomination is in proper form, it will later be submitted with the application for the appointment of a committee. The judge shall appoint the committee that has been so nominated ‘unless there is good and sufficient reason for refusing the appointment’ (PPA s 9).
The costs of all proceedings are in the discretion of the court (PPA s 27). Generally, the court orders payment of all the committee’s reasonable legal fees from the patient’s estate, theoretically so the applicant does not suffer losses for doing what, in many cases, is considered their moral obligation. Even though the patient’s estate initially pays costs, the PGT may later review the costs on a passing of accounts to ensure that they are reasonable. If the fees paid by the patient’s estate are unreasonable, the committee must return the excess amount to the patient’s estate. The committee should have legal fees reviewed by the registrar of the court if unsure of their reasonableness.
j) Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) as Committee
The PGT is a corporation established under the Public Guardian and Trustee Act with a unique statutory role to protect the interests of British Columbians who lack legal capacity to protect their own interests. This may include acting as committee of estate and/or person where a person needs assistance and there is no other family member or friend who can assume this role, or where there is conflict among family members and a neutral party is preferred.
The Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) may take steps to become committee of estate if:
• There is no valid enduring power of attorney
• The individual is incapable
• There is a need for someone to make financial decisions
• There is no suitable person available and willing to apply to be committee
• There are no other less intrusive options
The PGT charges a fee to provide estate management services in accordance with the Public Guardian and Trustee Fees Regulation, BC Reg 312/2000 [PGT Fees Regulation].
The PGT can become committee of estate and/or person in one of two ways:
1. The PGT may become committee of estate and/or person by Court Order. The PGT may bring an application for the appointment or, in a proceeding to appoint a committee, where there is a conflict, one or more of the parties may seek an Order that the PGT be appointed. The PGT will provide a response in the proceedings setting out whether they are prepared to take on this role. Typically, the PGT will only agree to act as committee of estate. A committee of person is required to make very personal decisions on behalf of the person and a family member or friend is usually more appropriate to act in this role if it is required.
2. As of December 1, 2014, the PGT may also become committee of estate by a legislative process set out in the Adult Guardianship Act. See below.
For more information, please visit the PGT website: https://www.trustee.bc.ca/Pages/default.aspx.
B. Adult Guardianship Act: Legislative Process Committeeship ('Statutory Property Guardian')
The other process by which a committeeship can be created is through the legislative process outlined by the AGA. A committeeship created in this manner is referred to in the legislation as a ‘Statutory Property Guardian’. The main difference between a court order committeeship and a legislative process committeeship, is that under the latter, only the PGT can become committee and solely over the adult’s financial affairs. However, once the Public Guardian and Trustee becomes a Statutory Property Guardian, the PPA states that Statutory Property Guardian is a committee under the PPA. In short, the process for the PGT to become a Statutory Property Guardian is through the AGA but then their duties are defined by the PPA.
1. The Legislative Process Committeeship Process
a) Assessment of Incapability
For an adult to be certified as incapable under the AGA there are a number of steps.
1. Any individual can notify the PGT and the PGT can conduct an investigation to determine whether intervention is warranted. If it is found to be so, the PGT can request an assessment of incapability by a qualified health care provider.
a) A ‘qualified’ health care provider is defined in s 3(2) of the Statutory Property Guardianship Regulations [SPGR]. It includes a health care provider as defined in the Health Professions Act and the Social Workers Act, as well as registrants of the British Columbia College of Social Workers; BC College of Nursing Professionals; College of Occupational Therapists of British Columbia; and registrants of the College of Psychologists of British Columbia.
2. The qualified health care provider then assesses the adult according to the prescribed procedures and if satisfied, prepares a Report of Assessment of Incapability along with a Details of Assessment for review by a health authority designate.
a) The proper procedures of an incapability assessment are outlined in s 5 through 10 of the SPGR. These procedures are also required for any subsequent reassessment of the adult’s incapability such as a review requested by the adult or an ordered review.
i) The assessment is composed of two parts: a medical component and a functional component.
ii) Prior to conducting the assessment, the adult must be given notice of the purpose of the assessment and their rights
iii) Section 10 outlines that an assessment report must be completed by filling out a Form 1 and that details of the assessment must be attached. The qualified health care provider must also inform the adult of the result and the determination and offer the adult a copy of Form 1 and the details attached.
iv) The qualified health care provider does not need to inform the adult or offer a copy of the report if they have reason to believe that doing so may result in serious physical or mental harm to the adult or significant damage or loss to the adult's property.
b) A health authority designate is defined by s 4 of the SPGR.
3. Upon receiving Form 1, the health authority designate may issue a report of incapability if they are satisfied with the criteria. The designate must also have consulted with the PGT and notified the adult and, if possible, any spouse or near relative of the adult, of the intention to issue a certificate.
a) The criteria are provided by sections 32(3)(a) to (e) of the AGA. It is important to note that the certificate cannot be signed if the adult has granted power over all of the adult's financial affairs to an attorney under an enduring power of attorney unless that attorney is not complying with the attorney's duties under the Power of Attorney Act or the enduring power of attorney, as applicable (AGA s 32(3)(e)).
b) The notice required to the adult and a near relative is outlined in s 11 of the SPGR. Section 11(3) states that the adult or near relative be given at least 10 days to respond. The BC Government has created a form called the ‘Health Authority Designate Notice of Intention to Issue a Certificate of Incapability’ for the purposes of this notification.
i) Notification does not need to be provided to the adult or near relative if the designate has reason to believe that doing so may result in serious physical or mental harm to the adult or significant damage or loss to the adult's property.
c) The certificate of incapability is Form 2 (SPGR s 12).
4. Once the Certificate of Incapability is signed by the health authority designate, the certificate must be forwarded to the PGT. The adult and a spouse or near relative must be informed of the certificate and provided with a copy.
a) The BC Government has created a form called ‘Health Authority Designate Concluding Letter’ for the purpose of providing notice to the adult.
b) The PGT becomes the committee of the adult on the date that the certificate was signed by the health authority designate.
i) The PGT must inform the adult and, a spouse or near relative that the PGT has the power to manage the adult’s financial affairs and that the adult has the right to request a second assessment and potentially a court review (AGA s 33).
ii) The adult or someone on behalf of the adult may request a second assessment within 40 days of being notified (AGA s 60(2))
See A Guide to the Certificate of Incapability Process Under the Adult Guardianship Act available at http://www.trustee.bc.ca/reports-and-publications/Documents/A%20Guide%20to%20the%20Certificate%20of%20Incapability%20Process%20under%20the%20Adult%20Guardianship%20Act.pdf
b) Reassessment of Incapability
Once a Certificate of Incapability has been issued and the time for a second assessment has passed, or the second assessment confirms the assessment of incapability, s 34 of the AGA outlines three different ways that a reassessment can be made of an adult’s incapability.
1. If the PGT informs the body that designated the health authority designate who issued the certificate of incapability that a reassessment should occur.
2. If the adult requests a reassessment and has not been reassessed within the preceding 12 months
3. The court orders a reassessment under s 35(3) of the AGA.
c) Court Review of Assessment of Incapability
After a second reassessment has occurred and the adult is still declared incapable, the adult can apply for a court review.
The parties to the court review are:
• The adult
• The body that designated the health authority who issued the certificate of incapability
• If ordered by the court, a person appointed under the Patients Property Act, as committee for the adult following a declaration under that Act that the adult is incapable of managing themselves
The court may order another reassessment of the adult’s incapability.
During this review, the court may confirm the determination of incapability, or reject the determination of incapability and order that the statutory property guardianship is ended.
2. Ending Committeeship (Statutory Property Guardian Authority Under the AGA)
A statutory process committeeship can be ended in one of four ways:
1. The PGT is satisfied that the adult no longer needs a Statutory Property Guardian.
a) Notice must be provided to the adult that they no longer have a Statutory Property Guardian.
2. After a second assessment, the health authority designate accepts that the adult is no longer incapable.
a) The BC government has created a form for this purpose called ‘Health Authority Designate Acceptance of Determination of Capability’
b) Notice must be provided to the PGT
3. A court order after a review of an incapability assessment under s 35 of the AGA
4. The court appoints a committee under the PPA
3. Serving as a Committee
The committee’s general duty is to exercise their powers for the benefit of the patient, having regard to the nature and value of the patient’s property, and the patient’s circumstances and needs and those of their family (PPA s 18). The committee is not allowed to use or take any benefit from their position. When the patient has assets, the PGT will often recommend that the committee post a bond to secure the proper performance of these duties or seek a restriction on accessing the patient’s funds. The committee may use professional services to assist them in some duties. However, professionals cannot be retained to do actions an ordinary person could perform. The cost of professional services is paid for by the patient’s estate.
Specific duties of the committee include:
• Passing accounts before the PGT, at the times directed by the PGT (PPA s 10(d)). This includes, if the PGT requires it, a true inventory of the whole estate of the patient. The patient’s assets are not the committee’s, and thus the committee must account to the PGT for all transactions. Provisions regulating this duty are contained in s 10 of the PPA and in Rule 21-5 of the rules governing the Act in the Supreme Court Civil Rules, BC Reg 168/2009
• Upon the patient’s death, the committee is no longer required to pass accounts before the PGT, but must provide the committee’s accounts to the executor or administrator of the patient’s estate, or, if the committee and the executor or administrator of the patient’s estate are the same person, to the beneficiaries of the patient’s estate (PPA s 24)
• Paying patient’s maintenance, care and treatment costs out of the estate (PPA s 23)
• Bringing an action, if necessary, on behalf of the patient as their litigation guardian (PPA s 22)
• Exercising the rights, powers, duties, and privileges of the patient after the patient’s death, as if they had not died, and serving as executor or administrator until letters probate of the will or letters of administration to the estate of the patient are granted and notice in writing is served upon the committee (PPA s 24)
• Filing income tax returns and applying for pensions
• If a person is appointed as committee for a person under disability, that person must be the litigation guardian of the patient in any proceeding unless the court otherwise orders as per Rule 20-2 of the Supreme Court Civil Rules
The committee of the estate has all the rights, powers, and privileges over the patient’s estate as the patient would have if they had legal capacity (PPA s 15). This includes power to buy and sell property, open and close bank accounts, pay accounts etc. These powers include that would have been exercisable by the patient as a trustee, guardian of a person, holder of power of appointment or as the personal representative of a person (PPA s 17). For example, if the patient was acting as personal representative to their spouse prior to incapacity, the committee would now have the responsibility to make decisions for the spouse under the Representation Agreement. However, the court has discretion to place limits on any powers that the committee could otherwise perform (PPA s 16). In such a case, any powers that were limited by the court would fall to the PGT.
A committee of the person has the ‘custody of the person’ of the patient. This means the committee is responsible for the person’s welfare and well-being.
For investing money, a committee is a trustee within the meaning of the Trustee Act (PPA, s 15(2)), which means a committee must comply with the provisions of this Act when it comes to investing the patient’s money. For example, the Committee must meet a certain standard of care in making investment decisions and freedom to delegate investment decisions is limited.
If a patient (as opposed to the committee) transfers their property while incapable, for instance, by selling land or giving a gift, the transfer will be voidable (i.e. deemed to never have occurred at the option of the committee), unless full and valuable consideration was paid for the property, or a reasonable person would not have known that the adult was incapable (AGA s 60(2)).
NOTE: An Enduring Power of Attorney or representation agreement is terminated when a person becomes a ‘patient’ by being declared incapable of managing their affairs by court order (PPA s 19). Therefore, the authority of a court order committee will never conflict with that conferred by a power of attorney. Where a committee is appointed under the AGA statutory property guardianship rules, any EPOA or s 7 RA for routine financial affairs is suspended (PPA s 19.1).
Under s 14 of the PPA, a person is allowed ‘reasonable’ compensation from the patient’s estate for services rendered as committee. However, a person does not have to claim compensation. The amount of compensation is fixed on the passing of the accounts to the PGT.
If the PGT acts as the committee of estate, its fees are charged in accordance with the Public Guardian and Trustee Fees Regulation. Fees may be reduced or waived where the PGT is satisfied that hardship or injustice would result from charging the full fee (PGT Fees Regulation s 3).
A committee has a first lien upon the estate of the patient or the person who has ceased to be a patient (PPA s 14(4)).
NOTE: The Public Guardian and Trustee has helpful information for private committees at www.trustee.bc.ca.
4. Discharge of a Committee
a) Rescission of a Committee
On application by the Attorney General, the PGT, or any other person, a judge may rescind the appointment of a person (other than the PGT) appointed as committee (PPA s 6(2)). The rescission is subject to the committee complying with the requirement to pass accounts set out in s 13 of the PPA. This application may be filed along with an application for a new committee. This process cancels the committee’s authority to act for the patient.
b) Discharge of a Committee
If a person regains their mental capability and ceases to be a ‘patient,’ that person, or the committee (other than the PGT), may apply to the court for the discharge of the committee (PPA s 12). Notice in writing of this application must be provided to the PGT 10 days prior to the application. The judge who hears the application may, and shall if asked by the PGT, order the committee to pass accounts. There will almost always be outstanding accounts. The fees payable will be rescinded as of the date of the order and discharged on the passing of accounts.
An order of discharge or a discharge by the passing of accounts before the PGT is required before a security bond, if any, can be cancelled. Once the committee is discharged, the committee has no further powers or duties with respect to the estate of the person who has ceased to be a patient (PPA s 13(4)(a)).
NOTE: At this time there is no section under the PPA governing the discharge of the PGT as committee.
c) Release from Liability
A discharged committee, whether it be a private committee or the PGT, is released from liability concerning the management of the estate except in respect of undisclosed acts, neglects, defaults, or accounts, or where the committee was dishonest or unlawful in their conduct (PPA s 13(4)(b)). A difference of opinion between the person and committee as to how the estate should have been handled is not by itself a reason to support a committee’s discharge.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on June 21, 2019.|
|© Copyright 2020, The Greater Vancouver Law Students' Legal Advice Society.|