Robbins: Understanding conservatorships and guardianships
Oops! … She did it again.
Last Wednesday, an L.A. judge, Judge Brenda Penny, signed an order denying Britney Spears’ request to have her father removed from the financial aspects of her conservatorship.
Britney argued from The Bottom of (Her) Broken Heart that she was Overprotected and asked the judge to Gimme More. The judge ruled though that maybe she was just a little Crazy and she was Lucky that her dad was there to look out for her well-being.
To many Britney fans, the judge’s ruling was Toxic but the judge assured Britney it might not be Till the World Ends and she could come back One More Time, in mid-July, for yet another hearing.
Declaiming that the whole proceeding was a Circus, this is what happened Everytime and it would only make her Stronger, Britney thundered from the courtroom.
OK. Enough! Let’s understand what this is all about. What is a conservatorship? And, while we’re at it, let’s take a peek at guardianships as well, as the two of them are often — but not always — two peas in a pod.
A conservatorship is where one is appointed by the court to manage the estate (read this “assets”) of a “protected person” as that term may be defined under the Uniform Probate Code. In the Spears case, splashed across the recent headlines, Britney is the protected person and her dad, Jamie, is her co-conservator, the person appointed to look out for her welfare and manage her estate.
A “guardianship” may be defined as where a person is invested with the power, and charged with the duty of taking care of and managing the property and rights of another person who, because of age, deficit of understanding or self-control, is considered incapable of administering his or her own affairs.
Like conservatorships, guardianships come in two general flavors: juvenile and adult.
The common thread that often binds the two together is that the protected person is deemed by law, or adjudged under the specific facts before the court, to be incapable of acting in a reasoned manner for him/herself.
Guardianships and/or conservatorships may be voluntary or involuntary. A voluntary guardianship may be, for example, where a parent directs in her will with whom a minor child should be placed in the event that the other parent is not living at the time of her demise. An involuntary guardianship might be, for example, where, because a parent cannot provide a safe and suitable home for a child, the child may be placed with others.
Many a celebrity proceeding, among the drug-addled and confused, have involved involuntary guardianships and/or conservatorships. Mental and/or physical health issues of all kinds and stripes may also lead to the involuntary guardianship and/or conservatorship of an impaired adult. Count Britney among that celebrated (the root from which the word celebrity arises) cast.
Guardianships and/or conservatorships may also be divided as emergency, temporary or permanent depending upon the particular circumstances before the court. An emergency or temporary guardianship may mature into one which later becomes permanent.
In this state, guardianship and conservatorship fall under the Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act, which is broken into four main divisions. The second pertains to the guardianships of minors. The third deals with guardianships for adults. Section 1 deals with general provisions. Section 4 focuses on conservatorships for both minors and adults.
The definition, under the act, of an “incapacitated person” gives considerable guidance. Section 15-14-102(5) defines such a person as:
“… an individual, other than a minor, who is unable to effectively receive and evaluate information or both or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to satisfy essential requirements for physical, health, safety or self-care, even with appropriate and reasonably available technological assistance.”
Guardianships and conservatorships are the law’s way of ensuring that every person is protected and where one cannot act for him- or herself — either temporarily or permanently — the court will appoint someone who is charged as fiduciary to look out for the interests of the impaired or incapacitated person. In part, this scheme exists to protect the incapacitated person or minor from charlatans and opportunists — or sometime from the protected person’s own worst instincts — and it recognizes the inherent dignity to which every person is entitled, even when and if that person lacks the capacity or judgment to act for himself.
At the next hearing, scheduled for July 14, it’s possible that Britney will submit a petition for the conservatorship to be terminated. She may assert then that I Wanna Go, she should no longer be a Slave 4 U. Please, Your Honor, Do Somethin’!
We’ll soon see how it all shakes out.
Britney fans can only hope the judge will Break the Ice in which she’s locked and that one day soon, she will be freed from her dad having a Piece of (Her) and that the judge won’t Hold It Against (Her).
Yeah, I know. Geesh!
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices Of Counsel in the Vail Valley with the Law Firm of Caplan & Earnest, LLC. His practice areas include: business and commercial transactions; real estate and development; family law, custody, and divorce; and civil litigation. Mr. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his e-mail address: Rrobbins@CELaw.com. His novels, “How to Raise a Shark (an apocryphal tale)” and “The Stone Minder’s Daughter,” are currently available at Amazon.com.