According to research more than 750,000 people in the UK suffer with dementia and it's estimated that by 2021 this figure will increase to over 2 million.
"Dementia" describes a brain disorder such as Alzheimers, which results in a loss of brain function, but this is only one disease covered by this definition.
A dementia patient may reach a time when they cannot write and sign cheques, or even handle cash. Families often manage this among themselves but it's important to bear in mind that once a doctor decides that the person is no longer able to manage their affairs, the court dictates that a curatorship must be put in place.
As the number of people suffering with dementia-related illnesses increases, so too will the requirement for curatorships. But what does this mean for a family member who requires one – and what might it mean for you if you are asked to perform that role?
Under the Mental Health (Jersey) Law 1969, the Royal Court will appoint a curator for a person who is incapable of managing and administering his or her own affairs by reason of a mental disorder or addiction. Although curatorships are required for illnesses other than dementia, this is certainly the main cause.
The first stage of the curatorship process involves a medical assessment, which must be signed off by two medical practitioners. The court will accept applications from family members to be appointed curator, but in cases where there may be friction within the family, the court will seek to appoint an independent third party - perhaps the family lawyer.
Once the Solicitor General is satisfied with the information provided and happy that the proposed curator is suitable for the role, he or she will be summonsed to attend court and take the Oath of Curator, in which they undertake to manage and administer the assets of the person in accordance with the Mental Health (Jersey) Law 1969.
At this hearing, evidence is put to the court regarding the person who is to be subject to the curatorship, usually by way of written submission but in some cases in person.
It is important to remember that the curator is answerable to the court in relation to their management and administration of the person's property and affairs. For example, within 90 days of the appointment, they must submit an inventory of all property, both movable and immovable and on the anniversary of the appointment, it is the curator's duty to deliver a copy of the accounts for the previous 12 months. In some instances it may be necessary to apply to the court for permission to deal with the assets in a certain way.
There are four ways in which a curatorship can come to an end:
- If the person is later deemed capable of managing their affairs, then a successful application to bring the curatorship to an end may be possible
- If the person moves permanently from Jersey to a different jurisdiction and all of their assets are transferred to the new country of residence. In this case a new curator must be appointed in the new jurisdiction
- A curator can resign, but the court will seek to appoint a new curator
- A curator ceases to hold office on the person's death. The circumstances in which a curator needs to be appointed can often be very difficult for family and friends.
Please speak to Collas Crill's Wills and Estates team if you would like any information or advice.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.