A ward of court is a person who is unable to manage his or her assets or affairs and is taken into the protection of the court. When this happens the court appoints a Committee to act on behalf of the ward.
A Committee? Yes. A group of people who will endlessly debate, hold interminable meetings, go off on tangents and ultimately fail to decide anything? No
In the Wards of Court system in Ireland a Committee is something much more focused and effective.
A “Committee” in Wardship usually means one or two people to whom the welfare or affairs of a Ward are “committed”. The Committee is appointed by the court to act on behalf of the Ward and usually, but not necessarily, comprises a family member or members.
Role and Duties of Committee:
The Committee acts under the directions of the President of the High Court to:
- oversee the personal care of the Ward (act as “Committee of the Person”) and/or
- assist the Office of Wards of Court in managing the financial affairs of the Ward (act as “Committee of the Estate”).
When a new ward is declared a Case Officer in the Office of Wards of Court is appointed. The Case Officer is answerable to and follows any directions which the President of the High Court may give.
The Committee (and solicitor acting for it) liaises with the Case Officer in relation to matters such as:
- the Ward’s personal needs.
- administering pension and other income of the Ward
- making applications for the Ward’s benefit e.g. pension, HSE subvention, medical card entitlements etc.
- operating a Committee bank account
- managing the Ward’s property including payment of bills, insurance etc
- dealing with the Ward’s tax affairs
- keeping the Office of Wards of Court informed of any matters which require Court approval e.g. change of residence, consent to medical procedure etc.
The Committee is accountable to the Office of Wards of Court for all income and expenditure on behalf of the Ward.
The Committee is not entitled to a fee or salary but is entitled to reimbursement of out of pocket expenses subject to the approval of the Case Officer.
The Committee may at any stage apply for permission to retire and may make a recommendation for a replacement. The Court has jurisdiction to remove the Committee if it deems it no longer suitable to act in the best interests of the Ward.
Author Bio: Thomas Barry is a Partner in Thomas Barry & Company, a legal practice based in Dublin. He has over 30 years experience. He regularly writes on legal issues.