There have been many recent reports regarding the petition that Britney Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, filed with the Court that has overseen her conservatorship. This has been an unexpected occurrence considering that the pop star has been under a conservatorship ruled by her father for nearly 13 years, especially since the petition that was filed by her conservator (Jamie Spears) called for ending it altogether.
In one of our previous blogs, Britney Spears’ Conservatorship & How It Can Happen To You, we discussed the importance of having the proper estate planning documents in place so that you or a loved one does not have to go through the same conservatorship process and court hearings that Britney has endured. Although California calls it something different than we do here in Texas, a conservatorship is the equivalent of a guardianship and requires much of the same proceedings that Britney has gone through. Since a conservatorship is essentially the equivalent of a guardianship, the same documents we prepare in our office could have helped avoid this entire situation had they been executed prior to the Court appointing Jamie as her conservator.
A statutory durable power of attorney would have helped Britney prevent her father from getting control over her estate (finances, real property, etc.), and will ultimately allow you to appoint an individual you trust to manage your estate on your behalf should you become incapacitated in the future. Having a statutory durable power of attorney established by an experienced elder law attorney will also allow your agent to act on your behalf to qualify you for public benefits that you may have otherwise not been able to qualify for, such as Medicaid. This one document could have saved Britney a lot of trouble and will help you avoid the guardianship process in Texas.
A medical power of attorney would have allowed Britney to appoint an individual she trusted, other than her father, to make medical decisions on her behalf and access her medical records. Once an individual turns 18, their doctors will not be able to give their medical records or other medical related information to anyone but that patient. This may cause a hurdle for some individuals who need to know any medical history of their loved one before they make a decision regarding their healthcare. The absence of a medical power of attorney may require your loved one to obtain a guardianship to gain access to these documents and give you the authority to make these types of decisions on their behalf, much like Britney’s father has done in California.
As mentioned earlier, guardianship in Texas is very similar to a conservatorship in California. Whether it is for a parent who has been diagnosed with Dementia, an adult disabled child with special needs, or if you have become incapacitated due to a car accident or other tragic event, guardianship is an expensive and lengthy process that will be burdensome for your loved ones to go through.
Depending on the circumstances of the guardianship, there is always the possibility of someone contesting or “challenging” the person who is petitioning to the court to become the legal guardian. If this happens, it can cause not only the court costs and legal fees to increase, but it will also delay the time it takes to have someone appointed to make any decisions that need to be made.
Without any powers of attorney in place, decisions that will have to be made on your behalf will be delayed until you are appointed someone who is capable of being your legal guardian. This means that any decisions regarding the healthcare you receive, or any financial transaction that would have to be completed on your behalf would not be able to be done until the court appoints a legal guardian.
In an ideal guardianship matter, there is no contest to the person applying to become your legal guardian. Even if there is nobody contesting the proposed guardianship, it may take a couple of months (or longer) for a guardian to be appointed.
Since Britney Spears did not have any documents in place that would have prevented her conservatorship from taking place, she has been under strict supervision for the last nearly 13 years. Although her father petitioned to the court to end the conservatorship, the court must approve the order before it officially ends.
If the court approves to terminate Spears’ conservatorship, then the #FreeBritney movement will have met their goal since it began. However, Britney’s journey to freedom may be far from over if the conservatorship is ended. Being placed under a court-ordered conservatorship for a long period of time, especially one of Britney’s magnitude that has brought to light the many concerns of these proceedings, may make it difficult for her feel completely “free” even after the conservatorship is terminated.
As everybody is aware of how much court costs can be, did you know that you (your estate) could be responsible for paying the legal fees for those who are appointed as your guardian? For example, Lynne Spears, Britney’s mother, is requesting the court to approve that her legal fees of over $600,000.00 are to be paid from Britney’s estate. Having even the simplest estate plan in place could help prevent you from ending up in a situation like Britney’s (and may even save you and your family from spending thousands of dollars in court fees). Ask yourself this question: Am I properly protected from the courts and other individuals that may take advantage of me or my assets if I become disabled or incapacitated?
If the answer is no, then you need to speak to an estate planning attorney. Trusting the right estate planning team to have your back is something that should not be taken lightly. Our team at Hegwood Law Group is dedicated to ensuring that you, your loved ones, and your estate are properly protected to prevent you from ending up in a situation even remotely like that of one of America’s biggest pop stars. To get started on protecting you and your family’s future, call us at (281) 885-8826 or schedule online here.