Sometimes an adult is not able to make important decisions about their health, personal care or spending. We say that they do not have capacity to make important decisions. This can be because of a brain injury, a disability, or mental health problems, or for other reasons.

People who cannot make important decisions on their own might need another adult to make those decisions for them.  In those cases another adult can apply to court to ask to be the adult's representative decision-maker or representative. The court cannot appoint a representative for any area already covered by a valid personal directive or enduring power of attorney.

A representative may have legal responsibilities and duties related to part or all of the adult's finances, personal and health care, including where the adult will live and work.  A representative may make only the decisions the adult is not able to make on their own.

The Adult Capacity and Decision-making Act gives the court the power to appoint a representative for an adult who cannot make some or all of their own decisions. This law replaces Nova Scotia’s Incompetent Persons Act, which allowed the court to appoint a guardian for an adult. A guardian made all decisions for the adult whether the adult had the ability to decide a matter or not.

This page only deals with the representative decision-making for adults. It does not talk about child guardianship.  In Nova Scotia, an adult is anyone who is age 19 or older.

You can find this information, and more in The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia’s book, It’s In Your Hands. For the chapter Adult Capacity and Decision Making, click here

This page gives general legal information.  It is not intended to replace legal advice from a lawyer.  If you need legal advice, it is a good idea to talk with either a lawyer in private practice, or Nova Scotia Legal Aid.

Last reviewed: February 2023