Create an enduring power of attorney
There's hardly a family in Ireland untouched by Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. Aside from the trauma of dealing with these diseases, the situation can be made even more stressful in the case of farm families if this situation has not been catered for legally by creating an enduring power of attorney (EPA). In the absence of this, where a farmer is proven to be of unsound mind, they will be made a ward of court, where a judge has the power to make decisions on the farmer's behalf. Both property and money is brought under the control of the court.
The committee is the person appointed to act on behalf of the ward. They can only do what the court authorises them to do and have no inherent authority or power. The person appointed is usually the person who made the wardship application.
However, where there is no suitable relative who is prepared to act or where there is disagreement among a ward's relatives, the court may appoint a State solicitor with no input from those who know the farmer.
On the death of a farmer who has become a ward of court, debts are settled and when a grant of probate or administration has been issued, the estate is distributed in accordance with the terms of the court or under the rules of intestacy.
But a farmer can avoid being made a ward of court simply by creating something called an EPA. This is a bit like a will, in that it enables a farmer to appoint someone of their choice to control their affairs should they become mentally incapacitated. A farmer can appoint almost anyone they wish to be their attorney including a spouse, a friend, a family member or a colleague. An EPA allows a farmer's attorney to specify:
-Where and with whom the farmer should live;
-What training and rehabilitation the farmer should receive;
-The 'small' but important things such as a farmer's dress and diet;