What Is a Conservatorship

What Is a Conservatorship?

Legal Assistant Estate & Probate Law, Resources, Wills

Following a very public breakdown in 2008 and her subsequent hospitalization, Britney Spears was put under legal conservatorship with her father as her conservator.

In that time, the pop star has made multiple comebacks, including going on tour, releasing albums, and even launching lucrative business ventures, the most successful ones being her lingerie lines and perfume brand.

Despite these seemingly successful career moves, Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, continues to have the complete legal authority to make decisions over his daughter’s personal life, business dealings, health, and finances.

Concerned over the details of the Britney Spears conservatorship, fans took to social media and launched the #FreeBritney movement. They questioned the legitimacy of this legal agreement and whether it was indeed in the best interest of the singer.

She cannot enter into contracts herself, leave the house on her own, or even spend the money she makes without consent from her conservators.

That being said, what is a conservatorship, and how is it different from guardianship or power of attorney? Here’s everything you need to know.

Conservatorship Definition

A conservatorship, as defined under US law, refers to the appointment of a court-ordered authority to be responsible for and manage the affairs of an adult who can no longer care for themselves or make competent decisions related to their health or finances. It is essentially a form of guardianship only that, in this case, the legal guardian is appointed for an adult.

The status and type of conservatorship ultimately depend on the individual’s capacity to make their own decisions. The conservator may be granted limited conservatorship over certain aspects of the conservatee’s life, such as their finances or health. Alternatively, they may be granted full conservatorship, in which case, they assume the same rights and responsibilities a parent would have over their child.

Regardless of the type of conservatorship in force, the conservator assumes complete legal responsibility for the important aspects of the conservatee’s life. It’s important to mention that the purpose of a conservatorship is to focus on the conservatee’s best interests. It does not exist to benefit the conservator.

Before a conservatorship is appointed, the court will typically have consulted with healthcare professionals and social workers to make a decision based on what it believes will keep the individual safe and in good health.

Types of Conservatorships

There are several different types of conservatorships. The decision over which one to grant ultimately depends on the goal. Here’s an overview of the different structures that exist.

Financial Conservatorship

In this model, the conservator is granted complete authority over the finances of the conservatee. While the individual will have physical autonomy on matters related to where they want to live or the healthcare they receive, they do not have access to their money, property, or investments without the conservator’s authorization. The conservatee’s assets are usually held in a custodial account for the duration of the conservatorship.

Physical Conservatorship

In this structure, the conservator assumes full authority over the conservatees’ life and health. They get to choose where they live, what kind of healthcare they receive and how they receive it, and even whether they need to move into a living facility of some kind.

General Conservatorship

In this arrangement, the conservator is granted full legal authority over the individual’s health, physical autonomy, finances, and all other relevant decisions related to their life. It is rare for a court to grant physical conservatorship without granting financial control as well. This is the most common type of conservatorship you’ll come across.

Limited Conservatorship

In this type, the court grants the conservator legal authority over certain aspects of the individual’s life. This structure is often used in cases where the conservatee is mentally disabled, allowing the legal guardian to continue providing care for them while still giving them an ample amount of autonomy. It generally focuses on the specific needs of the conservatee.

Short-Term Conservatorship

This type of conservatorship is granted for a maximum of 90 days. It is designed to address an immediate and very specific need. For instance, if an individual is suddenly incapacitated, a short-term conservatorship may be granted for a fixed duration.

Temporary Conservatorship

This structure grants legal authority to a conservator under limited conditions. For instance, if someone falls into a coma, a court may give a temporary conservatorship until the conservatee recovers.

Permanent Conservatorship

This conservatorship type gives the conservator complete legal authority over the conservatee for the rest of their life unless there’s an extenuating change in circumstances.

The individual under this type of conservatorship can apply to have it withdrawn. However, they would have to present their case in court for determination and receive a court order rescinding the conservatorship.

Conservatorship vs Guardianship

Conservatorship vs Guardianship

In some states, conservatorships are referred to as “adult guardianships.” The two terms mean roughly the same thing. The difference between them boils down to the scope of duties involved.

A conservator is charged with looking after the conservatee’s financial affairs and other relevant aspects of their life. A guardianship, on the other hand, is concerned with the individual’s day-to-day care needs, such as deciding where they’ll live, making healthcare-related decisions, or helping them transition into a nursing home or assisted living community if need be.

When a conservatorship structure applies to a minor, it is also referred to as guardianship.

Conservatorship vs Power of Attorney

A power of attorney can be used to accomplish the same things as a conservatorship, only that, in this case, it is exercised at the individual’s discretion.

A power of attorney is created before a person becomes incapacitated. On the other hand, a conservatorship is formed after the individual is no longer capable of making competent decisions on their own.

What Is Receivership

Conservatorships don’t only apply to individuals. A person or legal entity can be granted the legal right to control and oversee a company’s affairs to put it in sound status. The conservator is granted the authority of the company’s shareholders, directors, and officers.

A receivership, on the other hand, refers to a court-appointed process that helps a troubled company avoid bankruptcy, as well as assist its creditors in recovering funds in default.

If a loved one has become incapacitated for any reason and is no longer able to make competent decisions independently, get in touch with a conservatorship attorney to explore your options. That way, you can ensure that their healthcare and financial matters are handled properly in their best interests.

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