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Home » Contested Guardianships » Celebrity conservatorship suggests undue influence

When the #FreeBritney social media movement took hold in 2019, the famous pop singer, Britney Spears, did not appear to be mentally or physically incapacitated, and yet rumors spread about her forced admission into a mental health hospital. The conservatorship which her father, James Spears, had controlled since 2008 allowed him to make all financial and life decisions concerning his daughter.

Under California law, a conservatorship is justified where the individual cannot provide for their physical or health needs or manage their financial affairs without risk of fraud or undue influence by another individual. Ironically, since the recently appointed judge in the case dissolved the conservatorship two weeks ago, some of Mr. Spears’ decisions as conservator over the years have raised red flags concerning the very issue of undue influence.

Although the courts rarely grant a ward’s request to dissolve a conservatorship, Ms. Spears’ case has compelled other states to take a new look at their own conservatorship laws. With a $60 million fortune at stake and Mr. Spears’ 13-year control over it, an investigation may begin concerning his actions while in a conservator role.

New Jersey law concerning guardianships and conservatorships

Under New Jersey statute, a petition for guardianship must be on the basis of incapacity, and although the allegedly incapacitated person (AIP) has a right to personal representation, it is the court that will make a final decision over the control of the AIP’s estate or personal care.

There are two types of guardianships/conservatorships, of the person or of the property. In New Jersey, a limited conservatorship is possible where an individual is not incapacitated but voluntarily requests that another person handle their financial affairs.

Deciding what is in the best interests of the AIP

Establishing a protective arrangement either on behalf of an AIP or with a competent individual knowledge and permission can be a tricky arrangement. Once the appointment is final, the powers of the guardian are sweeping.

Even though the guardian is subject to oversight by court concerning all financial and personal care decisions, if a family member suspects abuse, neglect, or undue influence concerning the financial decisions of the guardian, it can take time to prove these allegations, especially if the ward is unable to speak for themselves.

For residents of Morristown and surrounding areas, it is beneficial to find out more about all that is involved in a protective arrangement for a loved one in order to make informed decisions.