Woman made ward of court after presenting to nursing home

Neighbours separately raise objection with the High Court wards of court office

The president of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, said on Tuesday she was satisfied to take the woman into wardship. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

The president of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, said on Tuesday she was satisfied to take the woman into wardship. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A woman who sold her home for more than €1.5 million has been made a ward of court.

The woman, a retired professional aged in her 60s, has no immediate family. The HSE sought wardship after a director of nursing raised concerns she presented to a nursing home last December in a dishevelled state, and concerns about her finances.

A couple who are neighbours of the woman’s had separately raised an objection with the High Court wards of court office as to whether the woman had capacity to execute an enduring power of attorney (EPA) last October, permitting other persons unrelated to her to deal with her finances.

The president of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, said on Tuesday she was satisfied to take the woman into wardship prior to the hearing of an application for that EPA to be registered.

Patricia Hill BL, for the HSE, said it was seeking wardship because of safeguarding concerns arising from the woman having presented to the nursing home in a dishevelled state last December and about her capacity last October to execute the EPA.

The court has powers under wardship legislation to direct an EPA shall cease to be in force but the issue of whether or not the EPA should remain in force was not for determination at this stage, counsel said.

An EPA does not prevent a person being taken into wardship and, if it is later decided the woman had capacity to execute the EPA, it could be registered and the wardship would end, she added.

Reduced cognitive function

A solicitor for the attorneys in whose favour the EPA was created said they understood the court’s role is to act in the woman’s best interests and were not taking any position on the application for wardship made without prejudice to an inquiry as to her capacity to execute the EPA.

A solicitor representing the neighbours said the EPA was executed on a date in October in favour of two persons and his clients were made notice parties to it. The woman was diagnosed in November 2019 with reduced cognitive function but she may also have been treated for that in October, he said.

The neighbours’ concerns in this matter are principally about the woman’s capacity when the EPA was executed and they have concerns about being exposed to legal costs, he said.

First cousins of the woman had been in contact to also express concern and may become involved, the solicitor added.

Ms Hill said she could well understand the neighbours’ legal costs concerns when they were “just honest brokers” but their costs could be met from the woman’s “significant” estate.

Competing interest

Ms Justice Irvine said the issue for the court as of now was the competing interest between the wardship application and the EPA. It was hard to see how the woman would be prejudiced pending an inquiry into her capacity to execute the EPA.

The court was strongly of the view she should be taken into wardship regardless of the application to have the EPA registered, she said.

If it was found the woman had capacity to execute the EPA, she would be discharged from wardship.

The judge appointed Patricia Hickey, general solicitor for wards of court as the committee representing the woman’s interests.

When Ms Hickey said the woman’s views will be taken into account in relation to the EPA, the judge said that matter could be canvassed with the attorneys. Ms Hickey also indicated the costs of the neighbours could be met from the woman’s estate.

The matter has been adjourned to November.