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Oops!...I Did It Again: What Do Conservatorships and Britney Spears Have In Common

A lot. And let me tell you why.

What is a conservatorship?

A conservatorship is the court process through which one person (the petitioner or conservator) becomes the conservator of another person (the respondent). The conservator is responsible for another person’s financial affairs. In other words, a conservator has the legal right to make financial decisions on the respondent's behalf.

When a minor, for example, inherits money or property, a conservator should be appointed to manage the minor’s finances until he or she becomes of age. Another example of when a conservator should be appointed is when an adult becomes incapacitated or can no longer make sound decisions regarding his or her property and affairs.


Under Utah law, a conservatorship can be considered full or limited by a court order and is available in cases of:

  • mental illness;

  • mental deficiency;

  • physical illness;

  • physical disability;

  • advanced age;

  • chronic use of drugs;

  • chronic intoxication;

  • confinement;

  • detention by a foreign power; or

  • disappearance

Additionally, the petitioner or the person who wishes to be appointed the conservator must show that (i) without proper management there is a risk of harm to the respondent’s property; or (ii) funds are needed to care for the respondent or those entitled to be supported by the respondent.

What is the conservatorship process like in Utah?

Let me walk you through the steps. Here’s are the general steps of a conservatorship process:

  1. The process begins when a petitioner, or person seeking to be appointed conservator files a petition requesting the conservatorship and naming the respondent.

  2. A hearing is usually scheduled a few weeks after the filing of the petition.

  3. If all family members or interested parties agree as to who should be appointed the conservator over the respondent’s property, the process is easy and quite fast. However, if family members or interested parties disagree or contest the appointment, it can be a costly and long process. Alternatively, the judge can refer the parties to mediation.

  4. The conservator must certify to the court that he or she is capable of serving as such by submitting a questionnaire and keeping financial records of all transactions involving the respondent’s assets and affairs. Within 90 days of the appointment, the conservator must file with the court a complete inventory of the estate of the respondent.

  5. The conservatorship ends when the respondent dies or recovers from the period of incapacity, by court order, or when there are no more assets or affairs to manage.

What about Britney Spears?

Britney Spears has been under a legal conservatorship as defined under California law for 13 years. In her case, she is the respondent or protected person. She had a conservator appointed to take care of her finances in 2008 when she was put on involuntary psychiatric hold. The conservator appointed by a judge was at first her dad, James Spears, and an attorney.

A recent court decision involving Ms. Spears and her conservatorship made the headlines again a few weeks ago when a judge ruled against her father in her conservatorship dispute.

Do you think someone you love might need the help of a conservator?

A conservatorship can be a necessary step when the protected person does not have a power of attorney or agent appointed to act on his or her behalf, or is not old or sound enough to make decisions or sign legally binding documents.

Knowing when a conservatorship is necessary can be quite complicated, especially when other members of the family disagree about what to do or who should be appointed the conservator.

Let us help you decide whether a conservatorship is right for you and your family. Give us a call at (385) 334-4030 or send an email to for more information or to schedule a free one-hour initial consultation.


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