People who have reached majority are considered vulnerable when their status or situation (physical, psychological or social) requires special protection for their person and assets. The law offers certain measures – court ordered or not – intended to better assist and protect such individuals. Such measures must respect the person's autonomy.
French law allows anyone to give another person the power to protect his or her financial and/or personal interests whenever the person is no longer able to look our for his or her own interests.
Indeed, when faced with an accident or a degenerative illness, it is possible to plan for one's own protection using a lasting power of attorney.
A lasting power of attorney is a simple contract, which may be notarized, and which establishes the extent of the powers granted to the person who is responsible for one's protection in the future. These powers are determined according to the wishes of the person who will become vulnerable (place of residence, what medical acts may be considered, leisure activities, vacation, asset management).
If a vulnerable person does not plan for his or her own personal and financial legal protection, the law provides for a set of protective measures, which may be ordered by the court overseeing protective cases.
Court-ordered protective measures are classified according to the needs of the vulnerable person.
When a person's physical and/or psychological state diminishes his or her capacities, court-ordered guardianship, supervision, and family empowerment measures may be considered so that a third party may represent the person in tasks of daily living and in more important events (for example: marriage, sales contract).
Special protection rules also apply to married persons. Therefore, a judge may authorize the spouse of the vulnerable person to fulfill this special protective role.
Furthermore, when a person's situation does not require a major and/or permanent protective measure, other tools are also provided by law: judicial safeguards or personalized social or judicial support measures (particularly for persons who are seriously socially disadvantaged).
Under French law, there are two types of unions: non-marital unions (cohabitation and civil unions or PACS) and marriage.
In principle, married couples can only end their marriage by going through divorce proceedings. However, other types of separation exist and have very different effects.
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