Adult guardianship applies in situations when an adult needs assistance making decisions and informal help is not sufficient and there is no Representation Agreement (and/or Enduring Power of Attorney) in place.
There are two ways adult guardianship can happen in BC:
- Someone (usually a spouse or family member) can apply to the Supreme Court to be appointed the adult’s private committee (guardian). This is also called Committeeship. OR
- The Public Guardian and Trustee (a government official) can become the adult’s statutory property guardian. This means they take over an adult’s financial and legal affairs through a bureaucratic process – not through the court. This requires a Certificate of Incapability be signed by a designated health care provider.
Some effects of Adult Guardianship/Committeeship:
- The adult loses his or her decision-making rights. This is sometimes called ‘civil death.’ In the legal realm, the adult is a non-person.
- The adult will likely have a guardian/committee for the rest of his or her life; adult guardianship is difficult to reverse. However, recent changes provide more opportunity in the case of statutory property guardianship (the PGT).
With personal planning, you can prevent the need for Adult Guardianship/Committeeship. You can make one or more legal documents in advance to authorize those you trust to assist you or if necessary to act on your behalf if your mental capability is called into question.
Most important, in B.C., a Representation Agreement under Section 7 standard powers is a legal alternative to Adult Guardianship/Committeeship for adults who did not make a legal document in advance and yet need help today. An adult may make this type of Representation Agreement even if he or she cannot manage his or her affairs or make decisions independently.
In B.C., Adult Guardianship/Committeeship is the last resort for adults whose mental competency is in question; a Representation Agreement under Section 7 (RA7) are the first resort.
Read the Adult Guardianship fact sheet for more details and examples.