What is a Conservatorship?

Conservatorships have become a popular topic in recent months as pop star Britney Spears has spoken publicly about her desire to end her conservatorship. Since conservatorships have not been a common topic in years past, some people may be wondering exactly what a conservatorship is.

The Basics of a Conservatorship

A conservatorship is an arrangement in which someone is appointed by a judge as the conservator to look after the finances and estate of an adult who is deemed unable to make legal and financial decisions on their own behalf. A conservator can be a family member, spouse, child, friend, or a court-appointed professional fiduciary. Individuals who may need a conservatorship are those who struggle with severe mental illness or elderly individuals who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. In order for a conservatorship to be approved by a judge, extensive documentation must be provided regarding the conservatee’s mental state from a licensed and competent psychiatrist, psychologist, or physician.

Some responsibilities of a conservator may include managing finances, investments, and assets, and paying bills and taxes. The conservator must ensure that the conservatee has sufficient money to pay for daily necessities, or the conservator purchase them for the conservatee. They are required to keep a full documentation of all receipts and financial records with the reason for each purchase to present to the court. In general, a court-appointed investigator is sent to visit and report back on the conservatorship every two years. The conservator has a legal obligation to make decisions in the best interest of the conservatee. This can be enforced by the court, relatives, or other interested parties through legal action. In addition, the conservatee has the right to request for the conservatorship to end at any time.

Conservatorships in Florida

Conservatorship laws can vary from state to state, and in Florida, the laws are slightly different from many states. In Florida, a guardian can be court-appointed to an incapacitated person and be assigned specific responsibilities such as physical and financial care. According to Florida Statute §747.035, a conservator has “all the rights, powers, and duties of a guardian.” However, in order for a conservatorship to be granted, the conservatee must be an absentee. Florida Statute §747.01 states that an absentee is “Any resident of this state, or any person owning property herein, who disappears under circumstances indicating that he or she may have died [or] disappeared.” So, according to Florida law, a conservatorship may only be established if the potential conservatee is presumed missing or dead; this requires extensive documentation. This is not the case in many other states, where a conservatee can be present when a conservatorship is established.

Conservatorship, Guardianship, and Power of Attorney. What’s the Difference?

Although the terms conservatorship, guardianship, and power of attorney are oftentimes used interchangeably, they are all legally different. As stated above, a conservator is generally responsible for managing and protecting the finances and assets of a person. A guardian is largely responsible for making decisions about the physical well-being of a person. This may include medical decisions, housing stability, or other personal affairs. A power of attorney is a legal document where an individual authorizes another individual to act on their behalf. A power of attorney can be as broad or limited as the authorizing person desires. While a power of attorney can accomplish many of the same things as a conservatorship, the authorizing individual can grant and revoke the document to whomever they wish at any time.

Britney Spears

Britney Spears’ conservatorship began in 2008, with her father appointed as the conservator, after she was admitted into a mental hospital for concerns over her health. She was deemed unable to manage her finances, estate, and personal affairs. Britney has been in this conservatorship for 13 years and claims it has been abusive and unethical. Just last month she was in court proceedings to explain to the judge why her conservatorship should end. However, the judge ruled against her, and the conservatorship is still in effect.

If you have any questions about a conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney, please email info@waughgrant.com.