California’s conservatorship law has been in the news all over the world lately due to developments in the ongoing saga of Britney Spears. The pop singer’s case case is fascinating, and raises many profound issues, but it is also highly unusual in many aspects.
There is no doubt that many people who have been eagerly following the Spears story had no familiarity with California conservatorship law before they started reading about her case. If so, they are almost certainly getting a distorted view of what the law is all about.
California conservatorship explained
Every state has some sort of conservatorship or guardianship law for the protection of children and vulnerable adults. Put simply, these laws place another party in charge of a person’s affairs after a court finds the person is incapacitated due to illness, injury or chronic condition.
Typically, these cases involve older adults who have begun to suffer from dementia or other issues. They may also be necessary after an adult has been badly injured in an accident.
Typically, these conservatorships are started by a family member, so that they can take care of the person’s finances and legal affairs when the person is not able to do so by themselves. In cases of mental health conservatorship, the professional treatment staff of a mental health facility starts the process by requesting an investigation from a public conservator.
How a conservatorship ends
The ill and the injured have rights, and their rights must be respected throughout the process. Courts must review a conservatorship at regular intervals to make sure it is still necessary and that the conservator is acting in the conservatee’s best interest. Generally, a conservatorship ends if the conservatee recovers sufficiently to manage their own affairs, or when the conservatee passes away.
While the celebrity news may give conservatorship a bad name, it is in fact a very helpful tool for many individuals and families to protect the most vulnerable people in their lives.