Wards of Court

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 brought about important changes for people who have been made a Ward of Court. This section tells you about these changes.

Previously, if a person was unable to make decisions about their property, money and other affairs, because of capacity difficulties, their only option was to be made a Ward of Court. This was a legal process set out under the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871.

An application for a person to be made a Ward of Court was made to the High Court. The courts considered whether the person was of ‘unsound mind’ and ‘incapable of managing their own affairs’.

When a person was made a Ward of Court, they were no longer legally allowed to make decisions about their lives. This included everyday decisions.

A committee was appointed by the High Court to control the ward’s property and money and their overall care. The President of the High Court was required to consent to medical treatment for the ward. A Ward of Court could not leave the country or make a will without the permission of the President of the High Court. 

The Office of Wards of Court remains responsible for all ongoing wardship matters during this period of transition.

What will happen to current Wards of Court now?

People can no longer be made a Ward of Court. All current Wards of Court are currently undergoing review and will be discharged from wardship within three years. As part of this review, the courts must decide whether a current Ward of Court needs a decision supporter.

For further information on Wards of Court and the ongoing review process, you can contact the Office of Wards of Court in the Courts Service.

What about wards under the age of 18?

Wards who are aged under 18 will also have their cases reviewed at the appropriate time. If a ward reaches the age of 18 within two and a half years after commencement of the Act, then their case will also be reviewed. This review will be conducted before the end of the three-year transitional period.

Once the three-year transitional period has expired, any ward who subsequently reaches the age of 18, will have their case reviewed within six months.

What does the review process mean for Wards of Court?

All current adult wards have:

  • an opportunity to be heard by the wardship court when their cases are being reviewed
  • access to representation and legal aid.

If the wardship court declares that the ward lacks capacity to make certain decisions, this declaration will be kept under review by the Circuit Court.

Read more about What does the review process mean for Wards of Court?

What will the commencement of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 mean for Wards of Court?

Under the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (‘the 2015 Act’) the current wardship system is replaced by a new decision support framework.

Read more about What will the commencement of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 mean for Wards of Court?

What will the review process mean for wards of court?

All current adult wards have:

  • an opportunity to be heard by the wardship court when their cases are being reviewed
  • access to representation and legal aid.

If the wardship court declares that the ward lacks capacity to make certain decisions, this declaration will be kept under review by the Circuit Court.

Read more about What will the review process mean for wards of court?

Declarations of the Wardship Court about Capacity

The wardship court will make a declaration about the ward’s capacity to make certain decisions. Where appropriate, the wardship court may make orders so that a former ward may have one of the new supports available.

Find out more about the decision support arrangements available, here.

What will this mean for committees?

The committee is a person who was appointed by the wardship court to make decisions on behalf of the ward with the approval of the court. The role of the committee will end once the ward is discharged from wardship.

The committee is one of the people who can make the application to discharge the person from wardship.

The former committee may now be appointed by the former ward as a decision-making assistant or co-decision-maker. The wardship court may also appoint a former committee as a decision-making representative.

Find out more about the different decision supporters, here.

What will this mean for funds in court?

The funds now held in court under wardship will be paid out from court to the former ward. The future management of these funds will depend on the new arrangements (if any) put in place and this will be decided by the wardship court on a case-by-case basis.

Read more about What will this mean for funds in court?