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Every now and then, headlines spotlight a celebrity who has entered the world of conservatorship – where courts determine if there are issues that a person can’t handle, and if someone else should be named a guardian or conservator of that person.
There are thousands of conservatorship actions in California every year, but most of them aren’t big news. It’s the actors, entertainers and other popular idols who get the press, the blogs and the YouTube exposure.
What is conservatorship? People from all walks of life may become mentally or physically ill and unable to manage for themselves. Many are elderly people, but there are also many younger people who are temporarily or permanently incapacitated. Some need assistance with basic daily functions such as bathing, dressing, cooking and medical care. Others have trouble managing money, and may be unable to protect it. Addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling may prevent yet others from functioning at an acceptable level.
A relative, friend or public agency may petition the Probate Court for conservatorship of a person who can’t manage their own affairs, in order to protect him or her and provide for the best life possible under the circumstances. A conservator must be trustworthy, responsible and willing to provide or arrange for the care the person, called the conservatee, will need. The conservator is supervised by the court, and may need to petition the court for approval to take certain actions.
To qualify as a conservator, you must sign an oath or affirmation that you will perform your duties as required by law, sign a statement that you have received a list of your duties, obtain a bond (in most cases), and be appointed by the judge.
Letters of Conservatorship are issued by the court. These show your authority to act as conservator. You will need to show a certified copy of the Letters whenever someone needs official proof of your authority.
The court can name you a conservator of a person, a conservator of an estate, or both.
As conservator of a person, you are responsible for the conservatee’s personal care and protection. This includes deciding on living arrangements (which must be the least restrictive possible), providing health care, food, clothing and managing daily activities.
A conservator of an estate handles the money and property of the conservatee. Exact financial records must be kept, bills, taxes and routine expenses must be paid, and the money and property must be protected prudently. Regular financial reports to the court must be made.
A conservator may be the husband, wife or domestic partner of the conservatee. In such cases, there are special requirements for notifying the court if certain actions may affect the marital or partnership status of the conservatee.
For example, if you are a registered domestic partner who is conservator of your partner, you must notify the court within 10 days of any action to dissolve or terminate the domestic partnership. The court may set a hearing, and require you to show why your conservatorship should not be ended and a new conservator appointed. You would be required to show very strong proof that it is in the best interests of your partner for you to continue as his conservator.
So what is the story behind those celebrity conservatorships we’ve heard so much about?
Britney Spears’ erratic behavior and mental health issues resulted in conservatorship of her children and her finances several years ago. Amy Winehouse, before her recent untimely death, also had recurring bouts of questionable behavior and inability to manage her affairs. Her parents had conservatorship of her finances.
Conservatorship could be needed by any one of us at some point in our lives. Whether the problem is physical health or mental health, it is good to know that there is a legal process to provide for our care, if at some point down the road we just can’t function on our own any more.
This article was originally posted HERE.