Guardianships are in the news again, and this time the spotlight falls off the silver screen and into the pop scene. Yes, we are talking about Britney Spears. Britney Spears is a household name and now so is her conservatorship, also known as a guardianship. Britney Spears has been under a conservatorship since 2008 with her father as her guardian. What we all need to remember is that, “conservatorships are often used for people who have a severe cognitive impairment. Often those people are older, such as those with severe dementia. Guardianships are also appointed for people with significant developmental disabilities”. Britney’s guardianship (as we will refer to it as) is extremely uncommon. “Usually it’s not an individual who is young, who is working, who is very successful in their field — because that suggests a level of capability that wouldn’t meet the standard for legal incapacity,” Leslie Salzman says.
“It seems quite unusual that you would have a person who was capable of going out and doing all the kinds of professional activities she was doing, who is found to be totally incapable of managing either her personal or property affairs. There have been significant reforms to guardianship laws in recent decades. One such reform is the principle that guardianship should only extend to those areas of the person’s functioning that they cannot manage on their own. “It’s supposed to be a narrowly tailored order, and the court is always supposed to use the least restrictive alternative,” Salzman says.
But in Spears’ case, she notes, the conservatorship appears to cover all aspects of her personal affairs and her property management, “and it does not look like the court has entertained least restrictive alternatives.”
It is obvious that this is an extreme case and that there are many issues at play. Most guardianships are pretty straight forward. In the case of Britney, her father is making her personal decisions but he is also her business manager. This is definitely not a norm. Here at Slonim Law we work with our Guardians and Wards to ensure that everyone is in the best situation possible. “Even when a guardian is appointed under most guardianship laws, the guardian is supposed to follow the wishes of the individual to the greatest extent possible,” she says. “So they’re supposed to consult with them, to understand their needs and their wishes and to act consistently with those.” Straying outside of the practical wishes and needs of a ward for personal gain is not what guardianships are meant to be about.
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Excerpts in this article from: Britney Spears Is Under Conservatorship. Here’s How That’s Supposed To Work by Laurel Wamsley