FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The case of Britney Spears has shined a spotlight on conservatorships in recent weeks and it has left many asking: what is a conservatorship?
A conservatorship in Indiana is also known as “guardianship” and was created to help Hoosiers.
“When you think of a guardianship you normally think of a little kid,” says attorney Paul Kraft with the Frank and Kraft Law firm in Indianapolis. “A conservatorship or guardianship can also be done for someone who is an adult but yet has some form of disability whether unable to manage either their own care discussions or their own financial matters.”
They are commonly used in Indiana for an elderly adult who has dementia and can’t manage their finances or elderly adults who have gone into a nursing home, becomes mentally incompetent, and didn’t make any prior appointments of legal or representative.
Another type of conservatorship common is for minor children, most often those who have inherited assets.
Kraft says the situation with Britney Spears is a one in a million case and is normally not what he sees.
Britney Spears has spent the last 13 years in a conservatorship. The conservatorship was put in place as she underwent a mental health crisis in 2008. Her father and his attorneys have emphasized that she and her fortune, which court records put at more than $50 million, remain vulnerable to fraud and manipulation. Under the law, the burden would be on Spears to prove she is competent before the case could end.
Kraft says the rules for conservatorships in Indiana have become stricter in recent years. Those restrictions have cause obtaining a conservatorship stricter.
In order to create a conservatorship in Indiana, a person must petition a county probate or guardianship court asking for someone who needs to be protective. Once the paperwork is filed the court schedules a hearing. A notice of the hearing has to be given to all people involved. For example, if a person is asking to create a conservatorship against an elderly person, their spouse, siblings, and kids would have to receive a legal notification.
Then the court appoints an independent person to act as guardian litem and they are charged with looking into the conservatorship request. That could be talking with the person in question, talking with their physician, and collecting information for the hearing. So not only will the court be listening to both sides of the conservatorship they will also hear the third party guardian litem.
After the court rules on whether the person can take care of their own financial affairs and mental wellbeing then the person who first petitions the court is appointed.
If a person is put in a conservatorship they can petition to have it terminate. For example, if a person is in a coma or has a medical issue and gets better that guardianship can be petition or end. For minors who come into money or are in need of financial help, the conservatorship would normally end when the minor turns 18.
“Every guardianship is different,” Kraft said. “There are typically two halves to it (financial and medical). Sometimes there’s only a need to have a guardian over the financial affairs not necessarily over the medical care.”