As an Elder Law attorney in Walnut Creek, CA who specializes in Conservatorships, I have yet to see a conservatee that is under the age of thirty who does not have special needs. I most often represent adult children trying to obtain a conservatorship over a parent who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s and is no longer able to manage their affairs. Conservatorships are granted by the probate court after substantial evidence has been presented as to their necessity.
In Hollywood, however, several parents have successfully petitioned to be the conservators of their adult children – most recently Britney Spears and actress Amanda Bynes. In the case of Britney Spears in particular, there is a substantial amount of money at stake, in addition to concerns about her wellbeing – and that of her two small children.
In 2008, Jamie Spears, Britney’s father, was granted a conservatorship over Britney. Eight years later, the conservatorship appears to have been a complete success. Now, for those of you who don’t know – a conservatorship is similar to the more commonly known “guardianship.” A conservator is legally defined as a “protector appointed by a judge to manage the affairs of an individual due to physical or mental limitations, or old age.” There are two types of conservatorships – “estate” (ie financial), or “conservatorship of the person”(managing healthcare/daily activities). Britney is under both. Her father not only has full and complete rights to manage her estate, which is estimated at over $220 million, but her healthcare and daily life as well. He reportedly oversees her visitations with her children, and was even rumored to have put Britney in rehab for 30 days in December 2014 when she began taking too much of her ADD prescription.
According to an article in pop magazine TMZ, Jamie has been able to successfully put Britney’s finances back in order since 2008, which the source states were a complete mess beforehand. Her father is assisted in managing her care and finances by a team of lawyers and doctors.
Conservators essentially have full and complete powers to manage another person’s affairs, but with such responsibility often comes a good deal of work. This is why the probate court also designates as portion of the conservatee’s assets to be paid as a kind of salary to the conservator. Because of the size Britney’s estate, her father is paid around $200,000 per year, plus additional expenses, to manage her care.
Attorneys are also paid for their work on conservatorships at a rate set by the county. The rate is often on the lower end of the going rate for lawyer’s fees in the area, ensuring that families who need a conservatorship will not have to pay outrageous costs in order to obtain one. Some brave family members attempt to do a conservatorship without an attorney, but because of the complicated nature and stringent court requirements, most conservatorships I see in the Contra Costa and Alameda County courts are facilitated by an Elder Law attorney.
So, while Britney’s conservatorship appears to be going smoothly, it is unclear what the situation with Amanda Bynes is. For those of you who don’t know her, she was a child actress who made it famous by her roles in Disney films and tv. A couple years ago, however, Bynes took a turn for the worst, acting out, being arrested for DUI’s, and getting into drugs. Her parents were able to obtain a temporary conservatorship over her in 2013, but their success in getting a permanent conservatorship afterwards is unclear. As Amanda Bynes has generally kept out of the tabloids for some time, I suspect they were able to obtain a conservatorship, and do have control of her funds and daily activities. In 2013, Amanda was strongly against the conservatorship, which is not uncommon for conservatees.
Whether or not the conservatee (or perspective conservatee) is in favor of the conservatorship, an experienced probate judge will make the final decision on whether or not it is necessary. The court will also appoint a lawyer to represent the conservatee’s interests.
If you have questions about a conservatorship, call my Elder Law Office in Walnut Creek at 925-322-1795 to set up a consultation.