Navigating committeeship: When there is no power of attorney

I talk to people about incapacity a lot. Often I will recommend they get a power of attorney and a representation agreement. This advice is pretty common online and elsewhere - and it’s good advice.
Navigating committeeship: When there is no power of attorney

However, many people I speak to don’t know what happens if they don’t get a power of attorney or representation agreement. They know it’s bad, but the why can be a little unclear. So, what do you do if you have a loved one who becomes incapable and hasn’t done all the recommended planning?

What is Committeeship?

In BC, you may be forced to apply for what is called ‘committeeship of the person’. Committeeship is essentially a form of adult guardianship. It allows you or the appointed person, referred to as the “committee”, control over the well-being of the incapacitated individual and their assets – for their benefit. Although it is similar to having a power of attorney and representation agreement, there are a couple of big differences.

Committeeship vs. Power of Attorney

The first rather large difference is that it is not voluntary. This is key because it completely changes the process. Rather than just having someone sign away their authority, instead, doctors must attest to the individual’s incapacity, family members and the Public Guardian must be served, and then you need to convince a judge to issue the order for committeeship. This is of course time consuming, specialized, and consequently expensive.

Another key difference is that the individual is not choosing ahead of time who is going to take care of them and their assets. A committeeship is an after-the-fact fix and if they haven’t planned who is going to be their attorney or representative, someone else will have to do so. 

Public Guardian Involvement

In addition to these differences, the Public Guardian will need to be more involved. Again, this is not a voluntary process so there is more oversight into how the incapacitated individual’s funds are spent. There is a good reason for this oversight, mainly so their funds are truly used for their benefit and well being, but this extra step can be costly, time consuming, and frustrating for the individuals involved.

In Conclusion

A committeeship is a powerful thing. It allows control over another person and their assets without their consent. But that power comes with responsibility. As the committee, you are legally bound to act in your loved one’s best interests and provide regular reports to the Public Guardian and Trustee or the court regarding the decisions you make on their behalf. While it is better to plan ahead, not everyone does. It is a more difficult process, but in some circumstances a committeeship can be literally life saving. 

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Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice. Consult with qualified professionals to create a personalized estate plan suitable for your specific circumstances.

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