Pop star Britney Spears has made headlines around the world after telling a judge in California “I just want my life back.” The singer has been subject to a conservatorship since her much-publicised mental health crisis in 2008, and her plight has gripped some fans who are convinced the conservatorship arrangement is being mismanaged. They have called for the singer to regain autonomy over her affairs through the #FreeBritney campaign.
Under United States law a conservatorship is the appointment of a guardian by a judge to manage the financial affairs and/or daily life of another due to physical or mental incapacity. In Scots Law, the equivalent is a Guardianship.
Guardianship is sometimes necessary in situations where a person loses capacity, for example due to dementia or other mental illness, and can no longer make decisions for themselves. Someone with an interest in the person’s affairs (usually a family member) can then make an application to the Court for authority to manage the person’s finances and/or welfare. The order is granted by a Sheriff and is usually in place for a set period of time – for example, 3 years. This ensures the order is kept under review.
The powers given are wide-ranging and cover receiving income, paying bills, buying items, managing money including investments, making decisions about accommodation, care and medical treatment.
Guardianship can be applied for by more than one person as joint Guardians. This allows tasks to be shared, for example among different family members.
If there is no family member willing or suitable of being appointed, then the Local Authority may also apply to become the Guardian. In those circumstances, the Chief Social Work Officer is responsible for making decisions.
The process for obtaining a Guardianship Order is not straightforward and often takes a considerable amount of time, and therefore we recommend that legal advice is sought early in the process. Our solicitors are experienced in making Guardianship applications to Dumfries Sheriff Court and can assist you every step of the way. We can also assist if you want to oppose an application for Guardianship that is being made by someone else.
Legal Aid is automatically available where welfare powers are being applied for, taking away any worry about the costs associated with making an application.
If you’d like more information about anything in this article, contact us today.