The Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia (the “PGT”) is a government agency created by the legislature with the goal of serving vulnerable individuals. The PGT is regulated by the Public Guardian and Trustee Act. The overarching purpose of the PGT is to protect the legal and financial interests of children, manage the legal, financial and personal care interests of adults who need help with decision-making and administer the estates of deceased and missing persons. Abuse by family members including the spouse and/or children represent a significant portion of claims made to the PGT.
The PGT must become involved in the affairs of incapable adults when/if the following occurs:
- Where there are reported concerns of elder abuse/neglect, the Public Guardian and Trustee Act under Sections 17-19 gives the PGT an authority to receive and investigate such complaints. Furthermore, Section 46 of the Adult Guardianship Act sets out that designated agencies, which include regional health authorities, Community Living BC and Providence Health Care Society have authority to investigate and receive concerns about abuse, neglect or self-neglect of incapable adults, with broad powers to assist with both financial and physical abuse/neglect. The PGT has powers to protect assets while investigation into the abuse or neglect takes place.
- Where substitute decision-making authority is involved with the Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act under Section 16. This Act creates an opportunity for the PGT to make health care decisions on behalf of incapable adults. The purpose here is to ensure that consent is obtained before a health care provider is able to provide health care in non-emergency situations. There are exceptions to the requirement of informed consent, such as for urgent health care or involuntary psychiatric treatment/examination.
- Where approval of gifts to licensed care facilities are made by the elderly/mentally incompetent under section 18 of the Community Care & Assisted Living Act. This Act is important as s. 18 prohibits an employee or licensee of a community care facility from receiving a gift from a resident will-maker, directed either to the employee specifically or their relatives. There is a prohibition in regard to employees or care-takers who act in such a way as to influence and guide residents where they benefit by way of receiving gifts. However, the PGT has the authority to consent to such gift-giving in a Will in writing pursuant to Section 18(4)(b) and the PGT can consent to a care-giver being granted the Power of Attorney (Section 18(5)(b)). In such situations then, Executors are able to apply to the PGT for consent when putting the Will through probate.
In summary, the PGT may come to play an important role in estate administration.