Can a Committee be replaced?

  • Yes, if it is in the best interests of the patient.
  • If the Committee is in a conflict of interest with the patient, or has a potential conflict of interest, there may be grounds for removing the Committee or for imposing terms on his appointment that would reduce or eliminate the conflict.

Recently the court in Re Davis considered whether to replace the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) with a family member.  The judge said that it is not enough to simply say there has been a change in circumstances.  The person seeking to replace the Committee must prove that the current Committee is not living up to its obligations as a Committee, and will not be able to live up to those obligations in the future.  Those obligations are to ensure the patient’s interests, past and future, are given paramount importance.  The Committee must ensure that decisions reflect realistic considerations of cost and benefit, taking into account that the patient might become competent again, or might get worse and require considerably more money for her personal care.   This means that the Committee must act as a reasonable and prudent business person.  Past behaviour should be considered, but only to determine whether the Committee will be able to discharge its duties properly in the future. 

These principles were applied in the earlier case of Re Seaton.  The patient and the Committee were brothers.  Their mother died and left each of them a small bequest.  The bulk of the estate was left to the Committee’s son.  The children of the patient asked the Committee to start a Wills Variation action on behalf of the patient, but he refused to do this.  The children then applied to replace the Committee on the ground that his own family’s interests were at odds with his duties as a Committee.

The Judge said the question was whether it would be difficult for the Committee to act with impartiality, not whether the Committee would in fact fail to be impartial.  If the Committee is in a position where he cannot exercise his judgment untainted by personal considerations, he should be removed.

The application was dismissed.  The Committee had considered whether to invest the patient’s money into a law suit which, if successful, would probably not benefit the patient, but might benefit his heirs on his death.  He received legal advice, and decided not to do this.  The court concluded that this decision was based on the patient’s best interests, not based on his personal interests.

If you are concerned about the actions of a Committee, we can help.  Contact us.

Read the case:  Re Davis