If a person successfully receives financial compensation as a result of their catastrophic injury case, an application may be made to the High Court for them to become a Ward of Court if i) that person does not have mental capacity or ii) if that person is a minor who has special care needs.
The purpose of bringing someone into Wardship is to have their financial compensation and property protected by the Courts.
Wardship as a Minor with a Catastrophic Injury*
If a minor (someone who is under 18 years of age), receives financial compensation, then the money will be paid into court and it will be held there on the minor’s behalf until that person turns 18 years old. Until such a time, the court will manage the compensation by making safe investments with the minor’s monies. Minors in this category are not Wards of Court.
However, if a minor receives financial compensation as a result of a catastrophic injury case, it is likely that the minor has ongoing needs such as requiring special housing and special care. A minor who falls into this category may be brought into wardship until that person reaches the age of 18*.
When such a minor receives financial compensation, an application will be made to the President of the High Court to bring the minor into Wardship. The President will appoint a ‘Committee’ to act on behalf of the minor. The Committee is usually the minor’s parent(s) / guardian(s).
*If the minor is deemed to not have mental capacity by the time they reach 18 years old, then he/she will remain a Ward of Court until such a time (if any) when based on medical evidence, the person is deemed to have mental capacity and capable of managing his/her own affairs.
Wardship as an Adult with a Catastrophic Injury*
If an adult receives financial compensation as a result of their catastrophic injury case and that person is deemed to be of unsound mind, then an application may be made before the President of the High Court to bring that person into wardship so that their compensation and property can be protected by the Court.
Information will be provided to the Court about the person’s medical condition, next of kin, assets and income. After considering that information, the Court must be satisfied that the person has mental incapacity and incapable of managing his/her own affairs before the Court will bring the person into wardship.
As is the case with a minor being taken into Wardship, the President will appoint a ‘Committee’ to act on behalf of the Ward. The Committee will typically be the person’s next of kin or a family member.
The Role of the Committee
As mentioned, the Committee that is appointed by the Court is usually the Ward’s parent(s)/ guardian(s) or close family member/next of kin. If there is no suitable person to act as the Ward’s committee, then the Court may appoint the General Solicitor for Minors and Wards of Court to act as Committee.
The Committee will work together with the Office of Wards of Court to manage the affairs of the Ward.
The Committee is only authorised to do what the Court authorises that person to do. There are two types of Committees (see below) and the Court may appoint one person to serve both of those roles:
1.Committee of the Person:
The person appointed to attend on a regular basis and oversee the personal day-to-day care of the Ward.
2. Committee of the Estate:
The person who will work in conjunction with the Office of Wards of Court to manage the Ward’s financial affairs. This can include administering pensions and other income on behalf of a Ward, discharging nursing home fees and other expenses on behalf of a Ward, managing a Ward’s property including payment of utility bills, property insurance etc., providing instructions to the solicitor acting in the wardship so as to enable the solicitor submit proposals to the Wards of Court Office in relation to matters relevant to the Ward (e.g. the sale or letting of a Ward’s property etc.). The Committee is accountable to the Wards of Court Office for all monies received and payments made on a Ward’s behalf.
The Committee is entitled to be reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses and requests for reimbursement can be made with the Case Officer who is assigned by the Office of the Wards of Court.
At any stage a Committee may apply in writing to be permitted to retire as Committee. The Court will appoint a new Committee on the death, resignation or replacement of the original Committee.
A Case Officer from the Office of Wards of Court will be appointed to the Ward. The Committee and the case officer work together to manage the Ward’s funds. Typically, the Case Officer would build up a good relationship with the Committee over the years of working together.
Day to Day Management of the Funds
The Committee can regularly contact the Case Officer to request for the release of funds for the day-to-day care and maintenance of the Ward.
It can be arranged for a set figure to be paid out of the Ward’s funds on a monthly basis to the Committee to cover the costs of private care hours, physiotherapy, occupational therapy etc.
The Committee can also liaise with the Case Officer in respect of accessing the funds to make purchases for big ticket items such as housing or specialist equipment. Consent will be required from the President of the High Court for large purchases. If a house is purchased using a minor’s funds, it will be registered in their name.
Protection of the Court for Other Matters
If a Ward requires medical treatment and the hospital requires consent to provide such treatment, then the approval of the President of the High Court needs to be obtained. A medical consent form should be completed by the treating doctor and sent to the office for consent to be provided. In an emergency situation, it may not be possible to obtain consent of the Court and in those circumstances normal medical considerations should apply, and treatment should proceed.
A person who is a Ward because of mental incapacity cannot get married.
A Ward may not leave the Republic of Ireland without the consent of the Office of Wards of Court.
Yes. The proposed Ward’s objection must be made in writing to the Registrar of the Wards of Court and lodged within 7 days of the Notice being served. A period of time will then be allowed to submit medical evidence to support the objection.
Yes. An application must be made in writing by the Ward or by a solicitor acting on behalf of the Ward to the Registrar of the Wards of Court. The application should be supported by medical evidence to the effect that the Ward is of sound mind and capable of managing his/her affairs. The President of the High Court will then consider the application on the basis of the medical evidence available.
Typically, the solicitors who acted for the proposed Ward in relation to their catastrophic injury case, will prepare the application papers on behalf of the Ward. The solicitors will furnish the President of the High Court with all the relevant papers and details, including any relevant medical reports, details of the Ward’s next of kin, housing needs, care needs etc.
If the proposed Ward is mentally incapacitated as a result of their catastrophic injury, or if the proposed Ward is a minor who is being brought into wardship due to receiving a large amount of compensation, then typically, the Defendant will pay for the legal costs of a successful Wardship application.
The legal costs include (but are not limited to) solicitors fees, medical report costs and stamp duty.