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What is Britney's conservatorship and how would it be different in the UK?

View profile for Jac Staddon
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The #FreeBritney campaign has been one of the most head-turning campaigns to make waves across social media this month.

This unusual case sees the pop star attempt to extract herself from her ‘conservatorship’ - a legal concept in the United States whereby a judicial body appoints a person to assist in managing the financial, healthcare and day to day personal affairs of a person who is deemed to lack capacity.

The term for this kind of arrangement in England and Wales is called a ‘deputyship’.

Why does Britney need a conservatorship?

Britney’s conservatorship has been making headlines around the world ever since her unfortunate ‘breakdown’ was publicised some 12 years ago. At that time, medical professionals and the Court found that Britney could not make decisions for herself in a reasonable and safe way and therefore subsequently appointed her father to take care of her property, finances and wellbeing.

Over the years, it became clear that her father had been given power over almost every aspect of the singer’s life including negotiating business deals and restricting visitors. This, to some, seemed too stringent. It now appears that Britney’s lawyers believe the current arrangement needs to be reviewed in order to reflect changes in her lifestyle and respective wishes.

Deputyship in the UK                                                                                                  

Much like the US, a deputyship is required in the UK when a person is deemed to lack mental capacity, which essentially means that they are unable to make decisions for themselves in relation to specific things, such as managing their property and finances. People may lack mental capacity because of brain injury, illness or disability. It may be temporary or permanent and the extent and effects will vary from person to person.

The Court of Protection (the Court dedicated to deal with such matters) will ultimately appoint and allocate its powers to a suitable lay or professional person to manage the incapacitated person’s affairs. The person who is allocated these powers is referred to as a deputy.

The underpinning legislation which all deputies must have regard to is the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) which is designed to protect and empower those who lack capacity. Someone can lack capacity to make some decisions (for example, to decide on complex financial issues) but still have the capacity to make other decisions (for example, to decide what items to buy at the shop). The MCA provides that we should always assume a person has capacity to make a decision, unless proved otherwise and that we should always impose the least restrictive option. The decisions made on someone’s behalf must always be in their best interests.

Deputy Legal - JCP’s Deputyship Service

Decision making for another person, as has been seen in the case of Britney Spears, can often be fraught with difficulties.  Appointing a professional can help to avoid heated disagreements and family rifts.

At JCP Solicitors we have a large deputyship team run by Court appointed Professional Deputies, who help to manage the affairs of clients who are no longer able to make their own decisions, because of brain injury, illness or disability.

Our core aim is to ensure our clients live as full a life as possible after their accident or illness.

We have a specialist legal team dedicated to taking care of clients who have found themselves under the protection of the Court and we pride ourselves on building an effective working and personal relationship with our clients.

Thanks to our strong links with the local brain Injury community, we are also able to connect our clients with a vast support network which essentially helps our clients develop certain skills and reach their personal goals.

Over the past few years we have had a number of clients who have regained capacity in relation to certain aspects of their life which is not only testament to their own hard work and dedication, but we hope in some way also down to the support provided by the Deputy Legal team at JCP, on a daily basis.

How can we help you?

You may be seeking help for a loved one so you can be reassured that everything is in place concerning their finances and welfare; it may be you need guidance in making your own deputyship application so you can take care of their needs yourself. Perhaps you have been asked to organise a test to determine mental capacity. Our team can assist in all of these areas.

For more information on the Deputy Legal team at JCP Solicitors, contact Associate Solicitor Jac Staddon on 01792 518 100 or email jac.staddon@jcpsolicitors.co.uk.

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