Onwards and upwards - how STEP's Mental Capacity SIG has grown

Tuesday, 01 May 2012
From humble beginnings, STEP's mental capacity special interest group has expanded its geographic reach and seen membership rise.

STEP members are used to the world of wealth-planning advice becoming increasingly international. Practitioners who specialise in advising clients who lack the mental capacity to deal with either their financial affairs or matters concerning their health and welfare are no strangers to this concept either. With the increasing diversification of where people live, work and retire, as well as where they hold their assets and go on holiday, issues relating to cross-border mental incapacity are increasingly common.

The founding members of the STEP Mental Capacity Special Interest Group (SIG) got together in the early 1990s. Their original aim was to create a purely UK group that dealt with responses to various consultations, particularly from the Office of the Public Guardian and its predecessor bodies, and was involved in matters such as the drafting of lasting powers of attorney.

But over the past 18 months, the group has developed from a small specialist team to a broader membership, recognising the increasing work that STEP practitioners undertake where there are issues concerning capacity, especially internationally. The huge advantage of STEP members operating in 74 countries worldwide is a valuable resource for those involved in the cross-border incapacity field: there is nearly always someone to ask.

Having formally established itself in late 2010, the group has seen exciting developments across the year. From expanding in membership numbers, to carrying out a membership survey requesting feedback on the services and resources the group wishes to see develop, to starting to build some of those services, the Steering Committee has various activities planned for 2012.

STEP is a valuable resource for those involved in the cross-border incapacity field: there is nearly always someone to ask

One of the highlights of our year was the half-day conference ‘Seven Ages of Incapacity’, as part of the STEP Branch Chairs’ Assembly (BCA) in December. Expert speakers, including representatives from Canada, Australia, Ireland and the Cayman Islands, covered a wide range of topics focusing on the fact that lack of capacity can cause legal problems at any age. The presentations covered the incapable shareholder, director, trustee and settlor, as well as issues where a litigant loses capacity.

One of the highlights of the year was the conference “Seven Ages of Incapacity”

Additionally, the group has put together the first in what it hopes will be a comprehensive series of jurisdictional reference guides to the mental capacity law that applies in a range of countries around the world. So far, we have been fortunate enough to receive contributions on four of the main Australian states, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Isle of Man, Monaco, Scotland, Switzerland, the Bahamas, Bermuda and a number of the Canadian provinces and US states. Examples of the jurisdictional guides can be found on the SIG sub-section of the STEP website. The Steering Committee is keen to receive further contributions for this useful and fascinating resource.

Our plans for 2012 focus on significant online development, such as a member forum for those interested in mental capacity, as well as our 2012 conference, which will be held as part of the STEP Assembly later this year (see page 7).

The SIG’s purpose

  • To provide an international forum of support and assistance to STEP members undertaking all aspects of legal work for clients of all ages who are affected by a lack of mental capacity.
  • To educate practitioners regarding the specialist planning required for incapacitated clients and their families and those caring for them.
  • To be a forum for practitioners enabling them to grow their networks of equals in other jurisdictions and in conjunction with other organisations.
  • To respond to consultations and seek to influence public policy in relevant areas concerning mental capacity.

For more information about this Special Interest Group and its activities, news and events, go to www.step.org/mental-capacity

Author block
Julia Abrey

Julia Abrey TEP is a Partner at Withers in London and Chair of the Mental Capacity Special Interest Group.

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