Solicitors in Westminster, London
"I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" but I'm "Overprotected"
In September 2021, Jamie Spears, the father of Britney Spears, was suspended as Britney’s conservator. This follows over a decade of conservatorship where Jamie has controlled his daughter’s financial affairs, personal welfare and professional decisions.
Britney’s legal battle to end the conservatorship has recently been widely publicised in the media. The contradiction between the need for a conservator and Britney’s continued professional career and public profile is the basis for the #freebritney movement and the documentary Framing Britney Spears. When addressing the court in June 2021, Britney referred to the conservatorship as “abusive”, and her experience has called into question the level of control given to conservators and the risk of exploitation.
Following the suspension of Jamie, Britney’s legal team appointed John Zabel as her new conservator and have requested a new hearing in the coming months to decide whether to end the 13-year conservatorship altogether.
What is conservatorship?
In the US, a conservatorship is when a responsible person (the conservator) is appointed by a court to make decisions on behalf of an adult (the conservatee) who is unable to manage decisions for themselves. This may relate to the conservatee’s finances, healthcare or day-to-day decisions.
Is there a UK equivalent?
In England and Wales, the equivalent to conservatorships are deputyships. Deputyships are created under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) and the Court of Protection deals with the appointment of deputies.
A deputyship is when a person is appointed by the court to manage an individual’s affairs when the individual lacks mental capacity. There are two types of deputies: a property and financial affairs deputy and personal welfare deputy. A deputy can be a family member, a friend or a professional such as a solicitor. A deputy is accountable to and monitored by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) and their role and responsibilities are set out in a court order. They must report annually to the OPG and keep a record of all accounts.
A deputy must follow the principles of the MCA and always act in the best interests of the individual. They also have a fiduciary duty under the MCA Code of Practice to not take advantage of their powers or allow their personal interests to conflict with their duty as a deputy. For example, a deputy should not use their position for personal gain or profit, and if a lay deputy claims more than £500 in expenses per year, this may be investigated by the OPG.
A deputyship can be brought to an end if the court is satisfied that there is no longer a need for a deputy to manage the individual’s affairs, for example if they recover their mental capacity.
Lasting Powers of Attorney
Deputyships are distinct from Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) in that a deputy is appointed by the court after the individual has lost capacity. LPAs however are created before the individual loses capacity and the individual can appoint their attorney of choice.
If you would like to discuss anything set out in this article, please contact Beatrice Lewers, a trainee in our private client department, or Andrew Grant, a partner, who has particular expertise in deputyship and LPA matters.