My family friend owns a successful food catering business. I was once his business partner, but I have already withdrawn my share and interests from the business to start my own family. I found out, however, that my friend had an accident that rendered him severely injured that caused serious brain damage to him. As a result of the injury, he now has the mental capacity of a five-year-old boy. His business is now in shambles, because of his inability to attend to his food catering and the constant in-fighting among his family members as to who will now manage his business and property. These have already resulted in serious losses to his business.
As a close friend and former business partner, I am sincerely concerned about this and I want to help his family on what to do legally in making sure his business is attended to and administered well. Because of this, can you please advise us on what we can do to legally protect him and his business and property by administering them, considering his current medical situation? Thank you for any advice.
Considering the personal condition of your friend at present and the necessity to legally secure his business interests, you may advise his family to consider the appointment of a judicial guardian who will formally guard over your handicapped friend and his property. A judicial guardian is a competent person appointed by the court over the person and/or property of either a minor or an incompetent ward to represent the latter in all of his civil acts and transactions (Florenz D. Regalado, Remedial Law Compendium Volume II, 10th Revised Edition, 2004).
Based on your narration, it appears that your family friend may qualify as an incompetent under the definition of the law on guardianship, which defines an incompetent as:
“Sec. 2. Meaning of word “incompetent.” – Under this rule, the word “incompetent” includes persons suffering the penalty of civil interdiction or who are hospitalized lepers, prodigals, deaf and dumb who are unable to read and write, those who are of unsound mind, even though they have lucid intervals, and persons not being of unsound mind, but by reason of age, disease, weak mind and other similar causes, cannot, without outside aid, take care of themselves and manage their property, becoming thereby an easy prey for deceit and exploitation” (Rule 92, Revised Rules of Court).
Since that present medical condition of your friend at present falls under the above-mentioned description as to who may be considered as incompetent, then you as a friend or any of his family members may file a petition before the court to be appointed as his guardian. If you do not wish to be your friend’s guardian, his other relatives may also apply for the appointment as guardian. The law provides as to who else may file a petition for guardian, to wit:
“Sec. 1. Who may petition for appointment of guardian for resident. – Any relative, friend, or other person on behalf of a resident minor or incompetent who has no parent or lawful guardian, or the minor himself if fourteen years of age or over, may petition the court having jurisdiction for the appointment of a general guardian for the person or estate, or both, of such minor or incompetent. xxx” (Rule 93, Ibid., emphasis supplied).
The appointed judicial guardian acts as the administrator and manager of the property and affairs of the ward. The general duties and responsibilities of a guardian are laid down under Rule 96 of the Revised Rules of Court that includes among others: payment of the ward’s debts, settling of his accounts, collecting debts, rendering an inventory of the ward’s estate, appearing in court in actions for the ward and other duties specified by the rule.
By having a judicial guardian appointed for your friend, his person and his property can be protected and administered properly to avoid further unnecessary losses to his property.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com