Britney Spears – known affectionately as the Princess of Pop and for her notable hits such as …Baby One More Time and Oops!... I Did It Again – has made recent headlines concerning her California conservator case. In 2008, James P. Spears, the father of Britney Spears, was appointed as her conservator after concerns had arisen surrounding the pop star’s mental health. Ms. Spears recently attended a hearing in her conservator case where she alleged that her father had forced her to work against her will and had otherwise taken advantage of her. At the hearing, the thirty-nine-year-old performer showed her interest in having her father removed as her conservator.
Britney Spears’ case is not the first recent instance in popular culture which has stirred conversation on the issue of guardianship cases. For instance, a recently released Netflix movie titled I Care a Lot, centers around a court-appointed professional guardian taking financial advantage of her wards. Given the recent influx of conversation surrounding the issue of guardianships, many Florida residents may be concerned about whether there is anything proactive they can do to protect themselves. Luckily, perhaps if Ms. Spears was a Florida resident and had met with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney, she may have been able to take advantage of certain strategies to have avoided her father being named as conservator. This article with discuss the estate planning considerations your estate planning attorney can suggest if you would like to try to avoid a conservatorship, more commonly known as a guardianship in Florida.
What is Guardianship in Florida?
In the State of Florida, a guardianship is a court-supervised proceeding where, generally, a person who is unable to care for themselves is evaluated by medical professionals and is placed in the care of a person or entity to serve as the incapacitated person’s guardian. Essentially, a guardianship case is where a court steps in to make sure an incapacitated person has someone in place to handle his or her day-to-day affairs. An incapacitated person placed under the care of a guardian is generally referred to as a ward. In Florida, a person is generally required to have been evaluated by three medical professionals and have a hearing before a court (with counsel present) to determine if this person is in such a state that they need a guardian.
Once a guardian is put in place, said guardian has the authority to manage most aspects of the ward’s life including their financial and medical decisions. In fact, a guardianship order takes the ward’s rights away to be exercised by the guardian, generally speaking. Being a guardian is a major responsibility and requires annual accountings to the court to ensure that there are not improper dealings with the assets of the ward. However, given the fact that the role of a guardian is so personal, it may be of some solace to know that you have the ability to have prepared on your behalf a document letting a court know who you would prefer to be your guardian should you ever become incapacitated. Furthermore, you can have prepared on your behalf documentation which could eliminate a guardianship proceed altogether, which could save on court costs and attorneys fees. But, before you have such a document prepared, it would be important to know who is even allowed to serve a guardian in the State of Florida.