A, B and C v X, Y and Z [2012] EWHC 2400 (COP), [2012] MHLO 112

The court considered X's capacity to marry, make a will or power of attorney, manage affairs, and litigate. (1) X did not lack capacity to marry. The basis for this assessment was correctly stated in Sheffield as follows: (a) it is not enough that someone appreciates that he or she is taking part in a marriage ceremony or understands its words; (b) he or she must understand the nature of the marriage contract; (c) this means that he or she must be mentally capable of understanding the duties and responsibilities that normally attach to marriage; (d) that said, the contract of marriage is in essence a simple one, which does not require a high degree of intelligence to comprehend, and the contract of marriage can readily be understood by anyone of normal intelligence. (2) The judge did not make a general declaration that X lacked testamentary capacity, but qualified this by saying that (a) there would be increasingly many times when X lacked such capacity, and (b) any will now made, if unaccompanied by contemporary medical evidence asserting capacity, might be seriously open to challenge. (3) The same observations applied to X's capacity to revoke or create lasting or enduring powers of attorney. (4) X lacked capacity to manage his own affairs: although a snapshot of X's condition at certain times would reveal an ability to manage his affairs, the general concept of managing affairs is an ongoing act and relates to a continuous state of affairs whose demands may be unpredictable and may occasionally be urgent. (5) X also lacked capacity to litigate: this required separate consideration because the time frame involved is different to managing affairs on the one hand, or making a will or granting power of attorney on the other. The basis for this assessment was stated in Masterman-Lister: 'whether the party to the legal proceedings is capable of understanding, with the assistance of proper explanation from legal advisers and experts in other disciplines as the case may require, the issues on which his consent or decision is likely to be necessary in the course of those proceedings'. (6) No finding was sought in relation to capacity to decide on contact, and the judge thought 'the idea that this distinguished elderly gentleman’s life should be circumscribed by contact provisions as though he was a child in a separated family' to be deeply unattractive. (7) There should be (a) a greater emphasis on judicial continuity in the COP, and (b) a pre-hearing review in any case estimated to last three days or more.

OPG summary

The following summary is from the OPG section of Justice website:

Title: A, B & C v X & Z (a judgment of Hedley J given on 30 July 2012)
Heading: Capacity to make an LPA
The court was asked to make declarations as to whether X had capacity to do various things, including entering into marriage, litigating, making a will, managing his affairs, and making or revoking an enduring or lasting power of attorney. Paragraph 38 is of interest on the question of fluctuating or qualified capacity: "Let me then turn to the question of revocation or creation of enduring or lasting powers of attorney. First, I am not satisfied that it has been established that X lacked capacity to revoke the power of attorney in favour of the Applicants, even indeed if that was still a live issue given that the revocation has been accepted and the registration has been cancelled. I found the issue of power to create a new enduring* power of attorney very much more difficult for all the reasons that apply in relation to testamentary capacity. In the end, I have reached exactly the same conclusion. I am unwilling to make, on the evidence, a general declaration that he lacks capacity, but qualify that immediately by saying that the exercise of such a power, unless accompanied by contemporary medical evidence of capacity, would give rise to a serious risk of challenge or of refusal to register. It seems to me, for exactly the same reasons as I endeavoured to set out in relation to testamentary capacity, that X’s capacity is likely to diminish in the future and there will be times when undoubtedly he lacks capacity, just as there will be times when he retains it." [*The judge must have intended to refer to a new lasting power of attorney, as new enduring powers of attorney may not now be made.]

Other

Date: 30/7/12

Before: Hedley J

The Applicants, the First Respondent and the Official Solicitor were represented by Counsel and Solicitors

The Second Respondent appeared in person

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Transcript

Summary on OPG section of Justice website†.This is a link to an archived version of the web page (archived on 6/10/14).