Realizing that an aging loved one may no longer be able to care for him or herself can be disheartening. To watch someone that you used to look up to and rely on throughout your life decline physically and/or mentally may lead you to decide that he or she needs help.
Perhaps you already decided that your loved one needs a guardianship, but you aren’t sure where to begin or what it means for your loved one.
Guardianship, or “Committeeship” in British Columbia
Unless abuse or neglect of your aging family member are evident, you may seek a guardianship, or “committeship” as it’s called here in BC, if he or she failed to engage in any advanced planning. Here in BC, the law refers to the person needing assistance as the patient while referring to the person providing it as the committee. The Supreme Court may empower you to make decisions regarding health, money, personal and legal issues on behalf of your loved one.
The court makes decisions regarding appointing a committee for a patient based on the following tenets:
- All adults may continue to make decisions for themselves regarding legal, money, health and personal affairs until or unless the court finds that an individual is no longer capable of doing so alone.
- All adults retain the right to live as they wish, reject or accept protection, support or assistance as long as they don’t hurt anyone else and they have the capacity to make decisions alone.
- All adults retain the right to receive support, protection or assistance when needed. However, it should be only as intrusive as necessary to help each individual.
- Only after you have exhausted other alternatives will the court appoint a committee.
Not surprisingly, you will need to demonstrate to the court that your loved one suffers from incapacity before the approving a committeeship. You may also need to make it clear that other alternatives fail to adequately protect the patient. You may be appointed as the committee of the person (for medical care, personal and end of life matters), the estate (for property, legal and financial matters) or both.
The effect of committeeship
If appointed, the patient becomes a non-person under the law and no longer has the right to make decisions for him or herself. Since committeeship is difficult to reverse, your loved one may be subject to it for the rest of his or her life. For this reason, it may be a good idea to fully understand its implications before moving forward. A compassionate and experienced lawyer may help you make this emotionally charged decision by determining whether it would best serve the needs of your loved one.