Legal Guardianship of an Adult in NC. What's Involved?

POSTED ON: November 1, 2021
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The conservatorship battle over Britney Spears’ life and money is not typical of most guardianship actions brought by attorneys for families when a loved one is incapacitated and can’t care for themselves or make informed decisions. In most cases, by the time they reach out to an estate planning attorney for legal guardianship, things have usually taken a turn for the worse.  Examples of such issues may include a family member exhibiting symptoms or receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.

According to the recent article, “Why the sensational Britney Spears case is atypical of most conservatorships” from Deseret News, families often wait until there is a crisis to start pursuing guardianship (also known as conservatorship) of an adult. Starting the process before an emergency would be better, but it is difficult, as the family must face a harsh reality: their loved one has lost the ability to maintain a normal life.

Elder financial abuse is also part of the problem with guardianship of an adult.   If the family is involved in the person’s finances, they may see large checks being written to strangers or spending that doesn’t follow the person’s behavior.

In some states, the guardianship of an adult controls that person's living arrangements and medical care, while the conservator controls the person’s finances. Each state has its own laws, so check with an attorney in your location, like Mooresville, NC.

In the Spears case, the court had to see evidence of incapacity, which seems odd for a person who has spent the last 13 years performing and earning millions. However, it is possible for an adult to be incapacitated, while still maintaining some degree of functionality.

If Spears’ counsel can demonstrate that she has capacity to manage her own life, health and finances, and if it finds the reasons she needed guardianship 13 years ago no longer exist, then it is possible the guardianship will terminate. She will be able to run her life, manage her career and make financial decisions as she sees fit. Those decisions may not be what her father would wish, and there is certainly room for her to make mistakes, just as any other celebrity multimillionaire does.

A protected person or an interested party has the legal right to petition a court to terminate a guardianship of an adult, if they believe the person is capable of managing their own affairs. Some states have laws serving as a “Bill of Rights” for protected persons, which outline the legal rights individuals have, even when they are under the care of a guardian.

The best source for information on guardianship of an adult is not the entertainment headlines, but from a local estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws of your state and how this process works for regular people who are sincerely trying to help their family members.

Reference: Deseret News (Sep. 30, 2021) “Why the sensational Britney Spears case is atypical of most conservatorships”

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