Posted by The Sterling Law Group on November 18th - Business Law
Conservatorships are necessary legal tools in some situations, though they can also overstep and wrongfully limit the decision-making power of an adult. If you want to fight against someone seeking a conservatorship, speak with an attorney who handles conservatorship cases in California.
The pop star Britney Spears has been posting on social media about traveling, shopping, and even eating out at will. While this might not seem noteworthy for most celebrities. It is meaningful for Britney since she was recently released from a conservatorship that controlled her for over 13 years.
In 2008, Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, sought a conservatorship over 26-year-old Britney following some public mental health struggles. The conservatorship granted Jamie Spears temporary control over the singer’s finances, business, and personal affairs. However, the court later granted a permanent conservatorship that would continue almost until Britney’s 40th birthday.
There were many concerns about the conservatorship over the years from Britney fans, who started the #FreeBritney campaign online. In recent years, Britney herself began describing many cases of conservatorship abuse. This included:
Earlier this year, Britney gave a speech in a court hearing regarding the extent of the “abusive” restrictions that her father placed on her life.
The judge permitted Britney to hire an attorney, which quickly led to the court removing her father as the conservator. The judge cited the “toxic environment” that Jamie Spears created for his daughter by abusing his conservatorship powers. At a later hearing in November 2021, the judge in this case completely dissolved the conservatorship over Britney’s affairs. Allowing her to fully make her own decisions – financial and personal – moving forward.
Britney’s attorney claims they’ll bring further action regarding alleged financial mismanagement of her assets and other potential issues. In the meantime, Britney has been posting online about all things her conservatorship prevented her from doing.
The end of the conservatorship doesn’t mean Britney will be overwhelmed by all the major decisions that she didn’t make for years. The court appointed an accountant to help ensure her financial affairs are in order following the conservatorship. Also, she will still voluntarily have guidance from a life coach regarding her personal and medical care. The difference is that she will have the choice whether or not she follows such guidance.
Conservatorship refers to a legal arrangement created by the court. A probate judge must first find that the conservatee has cognitive impairment due to an injury, mental illness, or another reason that prevents them from making independent decisions regarding their various affairs. The judge then appoints someone (the conservator) to make such decisions for the conservatee moving forward.
Decisions can range from financial or contractual moves, where they live, whether they can marry, or other basic life choices. Sometimes, there are two different conservators:
This is similar to guardianship over a child, though in California, the term “conservatorship” is used when an adult is a conservatee in question.
A conservator can be a family member, a private professional hired by the family, or even a public guardian if no one else is available to take on the role and responsibility. Generally speaking, when a conservatee has a significant estate, a private professional will manage those assets and property. This is often to prevent the potential for abuse like Britney alleged against her father.
Before a conservatorship can be put in place, the probate court must hear arguments from both those in favor of the conservatorship as well as the potential conservatee. Adults have the right to defend against conservatorships, and anyone in this position should have assistance from an experienced conservatorship attorney in California. On the other hand, those asserting that a conservatorship is necessary also want to have the right legal representation.
Conservatorship cases are complicated, as they balance an adult’s right to govern their own affairs and decisions with the need for assistance due to cognitive impairment. Once a conservatorship is in place, the conservatee should still have rights under the law, and the conservator of the estate owes a fiduciary duty to the conservatee. If the conservatee’s rights are violated or if the conservator violates their fiduciary duty, it can be brought up in court.
Not only does a conservatee have the right to challenge specific decisions made by conservators, but they also have the right to challenge the conservatorship as a whole. If they believe they are capable of handling their own affairs, they can raise the matter with the probate court for a review.
You don’t have to be a celebrity or have a substantial estate to have concerns about a conservatorship. The Sterling Law Group assists clients who are seeking conservatorships, as well as defending against them. Contact us for more information and to discuss your case today.