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How does one get an adult guardianship in British Columbia?

It is never an easy decision to make to seek an adult guardianship of a family member who, due to age and infirmity, has lost the capacity to take responsibility for his or her own affairs.

Sometimes, relatives or friends can assist informally and make sure that bills are being paid and resources are effectively managed. But, especially in cases of dementia, this can prove insufficient. One of the hallmarks of dementia is increasing paranoia that someone, or many people, is stealing from the sufferer. This puts those who attempt to assist them in an untenable position where their motives are questioned unreasonably.

The Canadian Legislature dictates formal procedures that allow the state or another individual to assume responsibility for the person's affairs and to act on behalf of him or her.

The term "Committeeship" is used in British Columbia when referencing the formal procedures that establish adult guardianship. It is under the auspices of the Patients Property Act, and is part of the formalities involved in declaring an adult to be mentally incompetent.

Committeeship can occur in two different ways:

-- A person, customarily a family member but may be someone else, makes application to the Supreme Court in order for he or she to be appointed as committee, i.e., guardian;

-- A state office holder known as a Public Guardian and Trustee is made committee of person's legal affairs and finances via issuance of a medical Certificate of Incapability.

Some of the effects of Committeeship include:

-- Adults lose their rights to make decisions and are considered to be non-persons under the law

-- Adults will probably be under Committeeship for the duration of their lives, as Committeeships are hard to reverse.

Advance planning can eliminate the need for Committeeships. Seeking legal advice now to authorize someone to act on your behalf if dementia or other ailments diminishes your mental capabilities is a sound plan.

In British Columbia, under the standard powers of Section 7, a Representation Agreement provides a legal alternative to obtaining Committeeship for adults with diminished capacity but without previously prepared legal documents. Adults can make Representation Agreements even if they can no longer manage their affairs or make independent decisions.

Source: Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre, "Adult Guardianship," accessed Oct. 08, 2015

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