Written by Cassandra Drake
Committees must keep detailed records of all the assets, liabilities, and money coming in and going out of the person’s estate. They must give periodic reports, referred to as accounts, to the Public Guardian and Trustee.
A committee of person is responsible for making medical decisions for the person and deciding where and how the person should live.
The need for a committee often becomes readily apparent when the patient becomes vulnerable and sadly, in some cases, is taken advantage of by unsavoury people. At that point, but ideally before then, two physicians will assess the patient and provide opinions as to the patient’s capacity. In the event they confirm the patient is mentally incapable, the application may proceed.
Typically, the family member of a patient is best suited to take on the role of committee. Adult children, nieces and nephews, and spouses are some of the committees we have acted for. We have also had close friends seek appointment as committees where the patient does not have family willing or able to act as committee.
A committeeship application to the Court is relatively straightforward where there is no dispute amongst those closest to the patient. However, oftentimes more than one party feels they are best suited to act as committee. Sometimes disagreement between potential committees can be resolved without the necessity of court intervention.
In other cases, two or more parties may decide that acting as co-committees is best. In that case, assuming the committees trust each other, they should be appointed with the ability to act independently. That way, if one committee is unavailable, the other can take care of urgent matters that arise. If the parties cannot agree, however, the judge will decide.
Recently, we acted for two sisters who were seeking to be appointed as co-committees of their elderly mother. One of the other sisters (there were four siblings) opposed the application because she wanted her mother returned to Newfoundland where she had previously lived. The parties were unable to reach an agreement so they asked the Court to decide. Ultimately, the Court decided that it was best for the mother to remain in BC with three of the sisters, including the two who were seeking committeeship, and the many grandchildren, rather than be returned to Newfoundland to reside with the daughter there and her two children.
Each situation is unique and whether someone will be successful in obtaining committeeship will depend on the particular facts involved.
If you or someone you know is dealing with a family member or friend who may no longer have capacity, please contact us to discuss the options.
Cassandra Drake is a partner in the general litigation group at Lindsay Kenney LLP acting primarily as an estate litigator and family lawyer. Cassandra joined the firm in 2014 and became a partner in 2019. Cassandra has appeared on behalf of clients and assisted counsel on matters before the Provincial and Supreme Courts of British Columbia.
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