What many already consider to be the pop-culture story of the decade, is also a stark reminder of the importance of legally appointing someone you trust to manage your affairs if, however unlikely, you are deemed incapable of doing so yourself.
Ms Spear’s conservatorship is ultimately the result of being under prepared, suffering a mental decline and the courts stepping in to decide who should have control over the most important aspects of her life.
What is a Conservatorship?
A conservatorship is a legal relationship where someone (the conservator) is appointed by a court to manage the affairs of another (the conservatee), who cannot care for themselves or manage on their own. Typically, conservatorships are established for elderly people with limited cognitive ability, people who have been seriously impaired (for example in a car accident) or people with serious mental illnesses who need special care.
Do we have conservatorships in NSW?
The Supreme Court of New South Wales and the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) have the power to appoint a person or people as the financial manager and/or guardian over an adult who lacks the capacity to look after themselves and make their own decisions. A financial manager has the authority to deal with the persons assets and make legal decisions on their behalf, whereas a guardian makes decisions about the persons healthcare and lifestyle.
The Supreme Court or NCAT can also appoint the NSW Trustee and Guardian as the financial manager and/or guardian of the individual, if no family member or friend is willing or able to take on the role that is clearly required in the circumstances.
While these appointments and all decisions made under them, must have the common goal of advancement and care for the individual, someone, or even a government agency, can still be empowered to make important decisions about your money and care without your consent, if you haven’t appointed someone yourself.
What can you do now?
If you are of a sound mind and can make decisions for yourself, you can appoint an attorney and a guardian by having a discussion with your lawyer today.
A power of attorney is a legal document which allows you to appoint a person or people of your choosing to manage your assets and make legal decisions on your behalf, if at some point you are unable to make those decisions yourself. An enduring guardian is a similar document which allows you to appoint a person or people to make decisions about your health care if something happened and you couldn’t make those decisions yourself.
The person or people legally appointed under these documents will be able to make decisions and act right away, without the need for the court or tribunal to interfere. Meaning you can retain a degree of autonomy and control over your life and assets by empowering someone you know will act in your best interests.