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Decision making: When others can legally make decisions for you

When judges and others can make decisions for you


Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988, ss 5–17

The law says that people over 18 years old can make their own decisions about their lives. Only a judge can decide that a person isn’t capable of making their own decisions.

If you or someone close to you thinks that you can’t make your own decisions about important things and you haven’t made an EPA, you or they can ask the Family Court to make decisions for you, or let someone else be your decision-maker.

If you go to the Family Court about this, here are some important things to know:

  • you will have your own lawyer, speaking up for you. The government will pay for this lawyer if you can’t afford to
  • the Family Court Judge will find out what you can decide for yourself, and make sure you’re still able to have as much control over your life as you can manage
  • the judge can make different kinds of “orders” about what’s going to happen in your life
  • the judge can appoint other people to make decisions for you
  • these people have to make decisions in your best interest, and the Family Court will make sure they’re doing that.

Decisions about where and how you live (personal affairs)

Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988, ss 9–10, 18–23

The first thing the judge has to decide is whether you need someone else making decisions for you at all.

The judge will ask questions to find out whether you can make your own decisions, and communicate them to other people. If you can’t, the judge can make “personal orders” about things like where you live, who looks after you, and what kind of education or therapy you will have.

The judge will make sure you have as much control over your life as you can manage, and that you can have the chance to learn to make your own decisions if possible. If you can’t make your own decisions about lots of important things, the judge can appoint a “welfare guardian” who can make those decisions for you.

Decisions about your money and property

Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988, ss 24–34

If you can’t make decisions about your money or property, there are a few options for having someone else look after them for you.

  • while you’re still able to make decisions, you can ask a trustee company to look after your money or property. Two doctors need to agree that you need help, and you need to sign a document saying it’s what you want
  • if the money involved is less than $5000, or income less than $20,000 a year, you, or people close to you, can ask the Family Court to make “personal orders” about what should be done
  • if the money or property is more than that, you, or people close to you, can ask the Family Court to appoint a “property manager” to make decisions for you.

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Disability rights

Where to go for more support

COVID-19 information


The Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) has up-to-date COVID-19 information for the disabled community on their website. They also post new information on their Facebook page and their Information Exchange newsletter. You can sign up by going to the website linked above. For more information about DPA, see below.

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Auckland Disability Law



ADL provides assistance and referrals to disabled people on their legal issues, and work with other Community Law Centres, legal professionals and community organisations to raise disability awareness and achieve the best outcome for disabled people.

Office for Disability Issues


The Office for Disability Issues is the focal point in government on disability issues.

Human Rights Commission


This page on the HRC website focuses on the Commission’s work around both individual and systemic disability discrimination. There are resources available in multiple accessible formats.

Health and Disability Commissioner


Phone: 0800 11 22 33
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz

The Health and Disability Commissioner has a range of pamphlets and other information on health and disability issues.

Contact a Health and Disability Advocate

Phone: 0800 555 050

Make a complaint to the Commissioner

Phone: 0800 11 22 33
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz

PO Box 1791, Auckland

You can make a complaint by phoning the Commissioner’s office toll-free, by email, by filling in the online complaint form or by writing to them.

Ministry of Health Services and Support


Publicly funded health and disability services available in New Zealand.

Disabled Persons Assembly


The DPA is a pan-disability organisation. DPA works to improve social indicators for disabled people and for disabled people be recognised as valued members of society. DPA and its members work with the wider disability community, other disabled persons’ organisations, government agencies, service providers, international disability organisations and the public.

People First


People First New Zealand is a self-advocacy organisation that is led and directed by people with learning (intellectual) disability. People First has a free Disability Information and Advice Service and they also produce legal resources in Easy Read form which are free to download from their website.

Deaf Aotearoa


Deaf Aotearoa is a national organisation representing the voice of Deaf people, and the national service provider for Deaf people in New Zealand.

Deaf Aotearoa also works closely with Deaf communities, government agencies and other organisations to increase awareness, promote New Zealand Sign Language and strengthen the rights of Deaf people.

Family Violence – It’s Not OK


Phone: 0800 456 450

“It’s not OK” is a community-driven behaviour change campaign to reduce family violence in New Zealand. Its goal is to change attitudes and behaviour that tolerate any kind of family violence. The website has resources for families who are experiencing abuse. It’s not OK is an initiative housed within the Ministry of Social Development.

Family violence and disabled people


Inclusive Education


This site provides New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions and resources to support the diverse needs of all learners.

Attitude Toolbox: The Whole Truth about Courts and Justice


This accessible video has information about the New Zealand justice system and courts. The video is presented in New Zealand Sign Language and fully subtitled in English.

New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal


This Tribunal hears and determines disciplinary proceedings brought against health practitioners.

Public Trust


Public Trust is New Zealand’s largest provider of Wills and estate administration services.

Te Rōpū Taurima


Te Rōpū Taurima is a kaupapa Māori service that supports people of all ethnicities with intellectual impairments around New Zealand.

Le Va


Le Va supports Pasifika families and communities to unleash their full potential and have the best possible health and wellbeing outcomes.

Blind Low Vision NZ

(previously called Blind Foundation)


Blind Low Vision NZ is New Zealand’s main provider of support to New Zealanders who are blind or have low vision.



Phone: 0800 24 33 33

Achieve is a national network established to ensure equal opportunity and access to post-secondary education and training for people with impairments.

Privacy Commissioner


Phone: 0800 803 909
Email: enquiries@privacy.org.nz

You can download the pamphlet “Your Health Information: Know Your Privacy Rights” from the Privacy Commissioner’s website, at: www.privacy.org.nz

You can also download a copy of the Health Information Privacy Code from: www.privacy.org.nz/the-privacy-act-and-codes/codes-of-practice/health-information-privacy-code-1994

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