Avoiding your own #freebritney situation
Following the release of the documentary Framing Britney Spears , Britney Spears’ conservatorship has generated many headlines. After Spears breakdown in 2007 her father filed request to a California Court to become her conservator, stating that Spears was incapable of making decisions for herself.
The Court appointed Spears’ father and a lawyer named Andrew Wallet as the conservators of her estate, meaning they have power to make financial and legal decisions for her. Her father was appointed conservator of her person, meaning he alone has the power to make medical and lifestyle decisions for her. The documentary paints a picture of Spears as an adult woman, unable to be in control of her own life because her father refuses to release her from a conservatorship that was put in place 13 years ago during a very difficult time in her life.
How could you or your loved ones avoid a situation like Spears now finds herself in? With a proper estate plan, she may have!
The term “conservatorship” is not used in estate planning in New South Wales but you can voluntarily appoint a person to make financial and legal decisions for you through a document known as an Enduring Power of Attorney. You can also appoint a person to make decisions about your health care and living arrangements through an Appointment of Enduring Guardian document.
It’s a common misconception that only the elderly population need these documents. As Spears has demonstrated, this is not the case. In addition to mental illness, you may require an attorney or guardian to help you if you sustain an injury or illness that affects your capacity to make decisions for yourself . However, the appointment doesn’t need to be because of injury or illness. You can appoint a person to act for a specified time, for example if you are overseas and needing assistance with your banking, or to buy or sell a home.
The benefit of preparing these documents before you actually need them is that, unlike Spears, you can choose who will be your attorney or guardian. This is particularly important if you are recently separated from your spouse or partner or if you have a family member who you would not appoint to one of these positions. In the absence of you making those documents, these people may seek their own appointment as your attorney or guardian in the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
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