Decision making: When others can legally make decisions for you
When judges and others can make decisions for you
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 think, or someone close to you thinks, that you can’t make your own decisions about important things, 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)
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
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.