Curators play an important role in South Africa as they are responsible for managing the estates and affairs of those that are unable to do so themselves. An individual that is placed under curatorship is deemed incapable of managing their own affairs. This could be due to a number of reasons such as mental illness, physical disabilities or the fact that the individual is a minor. The High court has the power to declare a person unfit to manage their own affairs only when the application has provided sufficient evidence to do so. 

The goal of curatorship is to protect the interests of those individuals in society that are vulnerable to exploitation and these applications are viewed in a serious light by the courts. Depending on the needs of the person that is under curatorship, there are different types of Curators in South Africa that are appointed to perform slightly different roles.

Curator Ad Litem

A curator ad litem is typically an advocate or attorney that is appointed to represent a person with a diminished mental capacity during legal proceedings and to litigate on their behalf. A curator ad litem can also be appointed to assist a minor with legal transactions and to represent them during legal proceedings as they are too young to represent themselves. A curator ad litem, therefore, does not have the power to make decisions regarding the estate and property of the person they have been appointed to represent. Their supervision commonly comes to an end when the legal matters that they have been appointed to oversee have been concluded.  

Curator Bonis

A curator bonis is appointed to manage the property of the person under curatorship and to oversee their financial affairs. This application has to be approved by the court and a court ruling has to indicate that the relevant person is incapable of managing their own financial affairs. Amongst other duties, a curator bonis has the power to purchase immovable property, manage assets and business interests and administer maintenance payments to the person under curatorship.

It is important to note that the powers of a curator bonis are limited to those that are granted by the court, and they are not free to make any decisions they wish. A curator bonis is also required to provide regular updates to the Master of the High Court and a detailed report of the income and expenses has to be submitted by the curator every year.

Curator Personae

Only the court has the power to appoint a curator personae as these curators are tasked with making decisions concerning the care and welfare of an individual. In essence, a curator personae is appointed to take care of the person rather than the person’s belongings or finances. These curators are able to consent to medical treatment on behalf of the relevant person and their main function is to take care of the physical well-being of the person under curatorship. Because of the nature of their duties, a spouse is often appointed as the curator personae if they are deemed fit to perform this role.

Navigating between the different types of curators in South Africa can be a daunting undertaking that places a lot of emotional strain on family members. Seek advice from legal professionals to not only put your mind at ease but to ensure that you get the best guidance possible during these trying times. Contact Cawood Attorneys today to book a consultation with one of our qualified attorneys and find out how we can help you simplify the entire process.

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