Over the past few months, pop star icon Brittany Spears has been all over the national
news not for her music but instead for her legal issues. From the Free Britney movement to a
New York Times documentary movie, it is easily said that this case is unusual. Conservatorships
are court appointed and designed to protect the person who is impaired- in this case Ms. Spears.
My office regularly represents conservators although my cases are “a bit less publicized”
than Ms. Spears’ case.“Conservator'' means any person appointed to protect a protected person.
Neb.R.R.S. 30-2601(9). A conservator will be appointed if the court finds a person
incapacitated. “Incapacitated person” means any person who is impaired by reason of mental
illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, chronic use of drugs, chronic
intoxication, or other cause (except minority) to the extent that the person lacks sufficient
understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning himself or
herself.” Neb.R.R.S. 30-2601(1).
In Nebraska there is a difference between a guardian and a conservator. A guardian
makes the personal decisions for the protected person. such as medical decisions and where to
live. A conservator makes the financial decisions for the protected person. In most cases the
conservator is mostly paying bills and protecting assets. In California a conservativor can act
both as a guardian and a conservator. In Ms. In Spears' case, the conservator has overseen her
career and her personal life for approximately thirteen years. Ms. Spears is petitioning the court
to remove her father as conservator and replace him with a different conservator. She may also
be trying to remove the conservatorship altogether if she can demonstrate capacity to manage her
financial affairs and the ability to take care of herself.
After notice is given to the person who may be incapacitated and then a hearing is held,
the court will make its determination. Sometimes more than one hearing is necessary. Once a
conservator is appointed, the conservator normally must take a class and may need to post a
bond. Moreover, the conservator must file yearly financial information with the court which is
reviewed and approved by the court. If the court has questions, the conservator (and his/her
attorney) will need to go to court and explain the financials.
Conservatorships are drastic, but necessary to protect people with the inability to take
care of their own finances. Often, this inability stems from age and/or cognitive issues. Issues a
court needs competent evidence to base its decision upon. Examples include parents becoming
conservator for a child with special needs when the child reach the age of majority, victims of
accidents that render a person incapacitated or the elderly with memory issues.
With regard to Ms. Spears, a California court decided years ago that she met the criteria
for a conservator. Although the file is sealed, most reports state the conservatorship was put in
place to protect her from her own mental health issues. In California, like Nebraska, Ms. Spears
is free to petition the court to have the conservatorship dismissed. To do this she needs evidence,
medical or otherwise, to establish she can manage her own affairs. Will this evidence soon be
presented to the court? The national media will surely let us know about any upcoming hearings
where Ms. Spears will officially ask the court to “Free Britney”.