What is a Conservatorship?
A Conservatorship is a legal proceeding where a Court can determine that a person no longer has the capacity to make their own legal decisions. The Court appoints someone to make decisions regarding your person (where you live, what kind of medical treatment you receive, what happens to your personal belongings, who can visit) and who can make financial decisions for you (pay your bills, sell your house, enter into contracts).
There Are Three Kinds of Conservatorship:
General Probate (over person and/or estate): These are available for persons unable to make decisions regarding their healthcare, or finances, and those under undue influence. Special authority can be granted to place a person in a secured memory facility and to administer medications for the treatment of dementia. Probate Conservatorships can not be granted to force treatment for mental illness
Limited Conservatorships: These are for Developmentally Disabled Adults and can be limited as to the powers the Conservator has over the Limited Conservator.
LPS (Lanterman Pettis Short): These are for those who are mentally ill and who have been determined to be a danger to themselves or others or gravely disabled. They are commonly referred to as 5150 (Welfare and Institutions Code 5150). These require a psychiatrist’s evaluation and are limited to 72 hours, then 14 days and a maximum of one year. These can not be requested by anyone except specific appointed people.
Conservatorships: What Went Wrong with Brittany Spears?
The problem of WHO CAN THE CONSERVATEE trust has been a problem for years and is obviously a problem in the Brittany Spears case. The courts have consistently prohibited proposed conservatees and conservatees from having independent representation, even if the attorney had provided representation over a period and long before the proceedings were initiated (and there was the double whammy that the PVP would demand all the records and information from the private attorney who the court would not allow to represent their client but whose confidential information they made them disclose).
As a Certified Elder Law Attorney, Martha Patterson, of course, took the basic and advanced PVP training sponsored by the Los Angeles County Bar, and over the years the attorneys on the panel (Samuel Ingham often one of the panelists) debated over whether or not the court appointed attorney was supposed to be an advocate or act in the best interests of their client. The law was and always has been clear a Court Appointed Attorney (formerly PVP) should be an advocate, a Guardian Ad Litem should be appointed to determine the best interests of a Conservatee or proposed Conservatee.
The law is clear an attorney appointed to represent someone was to be their advocate. That was before the Britney Spears case, yet no one fought the initial conservatorship. No one fought as she went and performed all acts showing she was a competent adult.
In my opinion, a Conservatee should always have the right to choose their own attorney. It is sad that so many have no one to trust because the courts allow others to just decide who should and should not be able to make their own decisions without someone who owes a duty to their client. Sad the system, that can be so helpful as it was for my family, can also be so corrupt.