The fine line between Conservatorship and Exploitation
A conservatorship is a legal process that is granted to individuals who are unable to support themselves due to their mental well being or illnesses. When a minor child is included, the process is also known as “ Guardianship”.
The court of law designates an accountable person known as the “conservator” who will be in charge of a person and their finances, known as the “conservatee”. The judge determines the restrictions of the conservatorship. The duties of a conservator could include controlling all aspects of the conservatee’s life whereas some only look after medical bills. However, there are conservators to aid and navigate them through ups and downs, old age, or help them with their physical or mental health. A public official is assigned to appeal for a conservatorship. It is necessary to include why the probable conservatee cannot be in charge of his/ her life and decisions, after which a court inspector is hired to interview the conservatee and to check if the individual is truly incapable and whether this conservatorship is affirmed. Although, some conservatees do maintain certain rights. This solely depends on which state the individual is living in.
The process of conservatorship is an exorbitant process. A lawyer needs to be hired to represent the conservator and the conservatee. Court fees, investigator fees and even the conservator’s fee are taken into account, which make the process complex and exorbitant. Conservators get paid from the conservatee’s estate and professional conservators are paid highly for providing their services.
Since time immemorial, we have always idolised celebrities. We’re so keen to know about their extravagant lifestyles. However, we fail to acknowledge that there are advantages and disadvantages of constantly being under public scrutiny as well. Not only this but we never leave any stone unturned in criticising them without realising what they might be experiencing, behind closed doors.
Britney Spears, an iconic pop star, has been under conservatorship since 2008. Her life and her career have been managed by a conservator due to the public mental health crisis in 2008. According to news outlets, in 2008, she was treated in the hospital under a short term psychiatric evaluation after she declined to surrender her children in a dead-end with the police. Due to this, the court of law appointed her father Jamie Spears as her conservator to look after Britney's estate and other aspects of her life as well. However, her father stepped down as her conservator and Jodi Montgomery, a professional, was hired as her conservator. Britney Spears pleaded with the court to make this transition permanent after calling her father out for “conservatorship abuse.” Britney constantly felt that this conservatorship was getting personal, all aspects of her life were controlled, right from who she dated till the colour of her outfit.
#Free Britney might result in reforms-
Recently, the #FreeBritney campaign has gotten a lot of attention and rightfully so. It was started in the year 2008 when Spear’s conservatorship was unravelled to the public. Since then, fans all over the world started the campaign to criticise the conservatorship deeming it to be unfair and abusive. This campaign regained popularity after Spear’s checked into a mental health care facility, stating her father’s health as distress. Newly, members of Congress Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren associated themselves with the #Free Britney movement and have been working towards conservatorship reforms and authorised statistics. Adding to that, Reform lawyers spoke about the necessity to safeguard the rights of individuals and avert exploitation.
She can only meet her children after a lot of discussion, including where and when. She doesn’t have the choice to marry and additionally even her reproductive health is controlled. To stop her from perceiving a third child, she currently has an IUD (intrauterine device) inserted by a healthcare professional. Britney has expressed her want of being married and wanting to bear children but being unable to do so because of the conservatorship. Many celebrities have also come in support of Britney Spears including Miley Cyrus and Paris Hilton.
Another well-known celebrity, Amanda Bynes, has been living under conservatorship since 2013. Amanda Bynes has been under conservatorship with her mother after. Amanda’s mother controls her estate and all her finances.
Mickey Rooney was abused by his wife’s children from a previous marriage, Chris Aber and Mark Aber. In 2011, Mickey Rooney was appointed to a temporary conservatorship under Michael Augustine, a Los Angeles based lawyer. Additionally, Mickey Rooney made a statement about being a victim of elder abuse and made people aware about this type of abuse.
Consequences of Conservatorship
A subject that is not discussed is the abuse that the elderly experience, living under a conservatorship. Bitterly, the elders are easy targets to be exploited by their conservators.
Some conservators take responsibility for many individuals and are unable to look after one individual, some are negligent in their commitments. Not only this but conservators also inflict pain on the conservatee. This abuse is rarely ever noticed unless a family member or relative checks up on the conservator unexpectedly but in most cases, the individual continues to live in silence. Neglect by the conservator could be damaging to an individual who requires medications, needs aid in feeding themselves or visits to the doctor. Fraud and theft is also very commonly seen in conservatorship of the elderly. Conservators continuously steal money under the false claims of medicine, health insurance etc.
Elder Financial Exploitation transpires when an individual embezzles capital of an elderly for their private gain. This misuse of assets can be executed by anyone, from a family member to a stranger living miles away. Assets can be exploited in various aspects. They could be directly stolen, the elderly could be threatened or harassed into handing over the assets or simply through fraud.
These are just a few instances that have been mentioned. There are so many cases of conservatorship that have been overlooked by the law. Conservatorship requires to be discussed because it not only violates basic human rights but also damages mental health and leads to trauma. We spoke about celebrities under conservatorship but what happens to common people being exploited in the name of conservatorship? In all honesty, a commoner living under conservatorship wouldn’t get half the attention that celebrities get which is an unfortunate but true reality.