This article will look at the Wards of Court procedure in Ireland.
The main purpose of Wardship is to look after the welfare and to protect the property of a person where this is considered necessary. The Office of Wards of Court is responsible for administering this process.
Types of Wardship
There are two types of Wardship. One covers adults who may require the Court’s protection because of mental incapacity. This covers the majority of persons taken into Wardship.
The second concerns persons under 18 years of age who require the Court’s protection for particular reasons and who when taken into Wardship are known as Minors.
When considering whether or not a person over the age of 18 years should be taken into Wardship, the Court must be satisfied that the person is, on the basis of the medical evidence available, mentally incapacitated and incapable of managing his or her affairs, and that it is necessary for the protection of his or her person or property that he or she be taken into Wardship.
Who applies for wardship?
Usually a family member applies.
Types of application
- Application made by a form of request known as a petition which is accompanied by two medical affidavits. This is the usual form of application.
- Application made by petition accompanied by medical affidavit or medical report where the respondent’s property does not exceed €6,350.00 or where his annual income does not exceed €380.00.
- Application made by letter to the Registrar. This form of application is only used where there is no willing and suitable person to act as petitioner.
The procedure governing Wardship is set out in Order 67 of the Rules of the Superior Courts. The procedure in respect of applications to bring persons under the age of 18 years into Wardship as Minors is set out in Order 65 of those rules.
Notice of the proposed Wardship application must be served personally on the proposed Ward. It is only in very exceptional circumstances that some other form of service is allowed.
A request for Wardship may also be made to the Circuit Court where the property of the person does not exceed €6,350.00 or the income from that property €380.00 per annum, (See Section 22(2) of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act, 1961 as amended by Section 2 (3) of the Courts Act, 1971.) In such a case the local Circuit Court handles the application.
Enduring Power of Attorney
If, prior to becoming mentally incapacitated, a person has made alternative arrangements, by completing a document called an Enduring Power of Attorney, it should not be necessary to bring Wardship proceedings.
A “Committee” in the Wardship context means one or more persons to whom the welfare or affairs of a Ward are “committed”. The Committee is therefore the person(s) appointed by the Court to act on behalf of the Ward. There are two kinds of Committee:
(a) The Committee of the Person who has the responsibility of overseeing the personal care of the Ward
(b) The Committee of the Estate who has the responsibility for assisting the Court in managing the financial affairs of the Ward.
The Committee acts under the directions of the Court either personally or through his or her solicitor. The Court may also require the Committee to follow directions of the Registrar.
Once a person is taken into Wardship, a member of staff of the office known as a case officer will be assigned to look after his or her affairs. The Committee or his or her solicitor will correspond with the case officer in relation to the management of the Ward’s affairs. The case officer follows any directions which the President of the High Court may give.
Property and finance
Once a person is made a Ward of Court his/her assets are brought under the control of Court for his/her benefit. The payment of bills will be carried out by the Committee who write to the case officer when payments are required to be made.
Other issues which may arise include the ward’s consent being needed for necessary medical treatment, bringing or defending legal proceedings, making a will etc.
There are a number of reasons why it might be necessary to take a person under 18 years of age into Wardship. The most common situation is where the Minor has been awarded substantial damages by a Court and has special housing or care needs.
A minor who is awarded damages is not necessarily made a Ward of Court. His award could be paid into Court and invested on his behalf until he reaches the age of 18.
The request to have a Minor taken into Wardship is made by lodging a document called a “Summons”, and which is supported by a sworn statement (an “Affidavit”).
The person appointed to look after the affairs of a Minor who has been taken into Wardship is called a “Guardian”.
The Office of the Wards of Court have produced a handy booklet about wardship which you can download here.