Curator Bonis- Managing the financial affairs of someone who is unable to do so

Curator Bonis is a legal representative who applies to a court to manage the financial affairs of someone who is unable to do so themselves due to mental or physical incapacity (hereinafter referred to as 'the patient'). One must note that our law defines other forms of curatorship in addition to a Curator Bonis.

Curator Bonis has a high degree of responsibility and is answerable to the offices of Master of the High Court to which he or she is obligated to submit accounts and records pertaining to the patient's financial affairs.

Some of the duties of a Curator Bonis include managing the patient's funds and dealing with their assets as well as arranging the correct care for the patient which is often required. The court order allows the Curator Bonis access to bank accounts as well as investments and acts as a general power of attorney in authorising him or her to attend to this. He or she must also investigate the patient's financial affairs so that proper decisions can be made. The Curator Bonis basically steps into the shoes of the patient with regard to managing their finances.

In order to appoint a Curator Bonis, a formal application is made to the High Court within the correct jurisdiction. This entails both an interim and a final court hearing.

The first part of the appointment is to appoint a Curator Ad Litem, being an investigative representative appointed by the court to act in the best interests of the patient. The Curator Ad Litem is generally an attorney or advocate who ascertains the circumstances of the patient and compiles a report confirming that he or she has seen the patient and can attest to their condition, as well as that he or she has consulted with the proposed Curator Bonis and supports the Curator Bonis being appointed to manage the affairs of the patient. The Curator Ad Litem takes into account the relationship of the parties concerned together with the proposed Curator Bonis's ability to manage the affairs of another efficiently and honestly. It is also essential that the Curator Ad Litem obtain the support of the immediate family of the patient.

The Curator Ad Litem then compiles a detailed report, which should contain two independent letters from certified medical practitioners who have examined the patient and are of the opinion that the patient is unable to manage their own affairs. This report is then served on the offices of the Master of the High Court, who then is responsible for approving the application for a Curator Bonis. The Master's office then compiles a report in which it either supports or rejects the application.

A second court hearing then takes place where a judge will consider the reports together with supporting documents, and thereafter may order that the patient no longer has legal capacity to manage their own affairs and thus appoint the Curator Bonis.

Should the patient regain their capacity in the future, they may apply to the court to reinstate their responsibility over their financial affairs.