The role of conservators was thrust into the international spotlight when pop star Britney Spears testified in a California court in June that her father is guilty of conservatorship abuse.
Jamie Spears was appointed conservator for his daughter in 2008. Britney says since that time, her father has bullied her, controlled her actions and even prevented her from having another child.
While the court hasn’t ruled on Britney’s request to revoke the arrangement, the court allowed her to hire her own attorney, who filed a motion in late July to end the conservatorship.
Why are conservators appointed?
Conservatorships can only be granted or terminated by courts. These legal arrangements allow a third party to make decisions for another person. Many confuse them with guardianships. Minnesota defines these legal terms as:
- Conservatorship: Conservators make financial decisions for persons subject to conservatorship (formerly referred to as “protected persons”), including paying bills, managing investments and entering into contracts.
- Guardianship: Guardians make personal decisions for persons subject to guardianship (formerly referred to as “wards”) –including medical, residential and education choices.
Persons subject to conservatorship or guardianship are often (but not always) either minor children or adults who cannot care for their own needs because of disability, age, or both.
Congress suggests more oversight might be necessary
State laws vary regarding guardianships and conservatorships. In California, Jamie Spears was initially appointed as “conservator of the person” as well as for his daughter’s estate, making all personal and financial decisions. Currently, he only manages Britney’s estate.
For years, government studies and investigative news reports have detailed hundreds of examples of conservator physical and financial abuse and neglect, leading to calls for improved laws and oversight. However, the true extent isn’t known because each state handles them differently, and there is no standard way for dispersing data.
Crafting a conservatorship or guardianship arrangement
The National Center for State Courts estimated in 2016 that 1.3 million adults are under some type of conservatorship in the U.S., involving nearly $50 billion in assets. Many believe reform is coming as ideologically opposed members of Congress have joined the “Free Britney” movement.
When crafting or challenging these legal arrangements, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney who understands Minnesota rules over conservatorships and guardianships. A knowledgeable lawyer understands the intense emotions the process creates and how to help families minimize conflict.