Controllership in Northern Ireland
If you have not made an EPA and you become unable to manage your affairs, it may be necessary to appoint a controller to manage them on your behalf. Find out more on this page.
Northern Ireland: Enduring power of attorney
What is controllership?
If you haven’t made an EPA and you become unable to manage your property and finances, the OCP will need to appoint someone, known as a ‘controller’, to manage them on your behalf.
However, if you only need to manage your income from benefits, it may be possible for someone to do this through appointeeship. For more information about appointeeship see Northern Ireland: Planning ahead.
Who can be a controller?
A controller is usually a relative or close friend. But it could be a professional such as a solicitor or accountant. They will be appointed by the OCP, so unlike with an EPA, they may not be someone you would have chosen yourself.
If nobody suitable can be found, the OCP can appoint the Official Solicitor to act as a controller. The Official Solicitor is a specific role created to represent people who can’t represent themselves and where no one else (for example, a friend or relative) is available.
If the controller is a professional or the Official Solicitor, they can charge for their services and take their fees from your money. The level of fees is assessed and authorised by the OCP.
A controller has many responsibilities that can be very demanding and time-consuming. Anyone wishing to become a controller should consider whether they will be able to carry out the role. They should read the information produced by the OCP to make sure they understand what being a controller involves. They might want to get help from a solicitor.
What can a controller do?
The controller will be able to:
- manage your income to ensure that your day-to-day needs are met and your bills are paid
- ensure that any property is kept in a good state
- ensure that your income tax is kept up to date
- ensure that important documents are in order and kept safely.
The OCP must authorise any use of your assets, such as your home or other property, on your behalf. The controller must liaise with the OCP about any investments, which are usually made by the OCP. The sale of property must also be approved by the OCP.
The controller should be aware of your needs and wishes. They should consult you as far as possible on how you would like your money to be spent. A controller has to submit annual accounts to the OCP and take out a ‘security bond’ (a type of insurance – meaning that if the controller acts irresponsibly, your assets will be protected). They can reclaim the cost from your money.
Becoming a controller
The first step to becoming a controller is to get the application forms from the OCP. The OCP can also help answer questions about the forms, but they can’t give legal advice.
The person filling in the forms can apply to be appointed as controller themselves, or they can ask for someone else to be appointed. A medical certificate is required, confirming that you don’t have the mental capacity to manage your property and finances yourself. The completed forms should be returned to the OCP with the application fee (see ‘Fees’ below).
If the court is satisfied that this is the right course of action, the OCP will appoint the person as a controller. Otherwise they will make a short procedure order (see below).
Both of these arrangements give the person appointed the legal power to manage your property and finances on your behalf, in accordance with the court’s instructions. In either case, the court will set out the exact duties and responsibilities involved.
Short procedure order
In some cases, the OCP may decide to make a ‘short procedure order’, rather than appointing a controller. This is a simpler and more limited arrangement. It usually happens where the value of someone’s property or income is relatively low. A short procedure order may authorise someone to:
- use your pensions and income on your behalf
- use your social security benefits and money held in a bank or building society
- pay care home fees and any other debts and expenses
- make sure any documents and valuables are safely looked after.
For full details of the criteria for a short procedure order, contact the OCP.
There are fees for controllership and short procedure orders. These are for both the initial application and for ongoing supervision by the OCP. The OCP can give details of these – see Other resources.