Wards of Court and Assisted Decision Making

What is a Ward of Court?

When a person is unable to manage his or her assets because of a mental incapacity an application may be made to the High Court to have this person made a Ward of Court. The Judge will then make a decision whether the person is in fact capable of managing his or her own property. If the decision is that the individual is not capable of managing his or her property or affairs, he/she is taken into wardship and a committee is appointed. The purpose of the Committee is to control the Wards property and make decisions in relation to same on behalf of the Ward.
How is a person made a Ward of Court?

In order to make a person a Ward of Court, an application is made to the High Court by a Petitioner to hold an Inquiry as to whether the proposed Ward is of unsound mind and incapable of managing his or her personal property. An application must be accompanied by two Medical Affidavits. Two separate Doctors must examine the proposed Ward and determine whether in their opinion the person is capable of dealing with their own affairs.

The Court will then make a decision as to whether or not to conduct an Inquiry. If not the Ward of Court application will be rejected.
Should the Court decide that an Inquiry is required the proposed Ward is then examined by a Doctor sent by the High Court.
If the Court decides that the person should be made a Ward of Court a committee is appointed to deal with their affairs. The committee is the person or persons under whose care the Ward is committed.
Can someone object to becoming a Ward of Court?

The simple answer is “Yes”. One of the requirements when making the application to have a person made a Ward of Court is that a Petitioner’s application must be served on the proposed Ward. The proposed Ward can then object to the Inquiry and/or demand that it be held before a jury. In order for a person to object they must sign an objection notice and have their signatures to same witnessed by a Solicitor.

The Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (the “Act”) was enacted on the 30th December 2015, but requires commencement orders to bring it fully into effect. Recently piecemeal sections of the Act have been commenced, however the more comprehensive sections remain in limbo. The Act provides for a new test for capacity, creates a concrete framework to assist individuals in making decisions, radically overhauls the antiquated Wards of Court system, modifies the law regarding Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPOA), and creates a new legal office – The Director of the Decision Support Service.
The Act applies to everyone and is relevant to all health and social care services.  The Act is about supporting decision making and maximising a person’s capacity to make decisions.