Could Britney Spears’ conservatorship saga happen in England? 

Last week, after over a decade of struggle and a long-running, high profile legal battle, Britney Spears’ father – Jamie Spears – was suspended as her conservator. Britney’s conservatorship has sparked calls for reform across the USA and led many in this country to ask whether Mr Spears’ alleged misuse of court-sanctioned power could have taken place in the UK. 

Koni Nyirenda, a Trainee Solicitor with experience in the firm’s Vulnerable client team, explained: “Conservators are appointed by US Courts when an individual is no longer capable of managing their own affairs due to their mental capacity, age, or physical disability.  

“In the UK, the closest equivalent system is that of ‘deputyship’. In this system, ‘deputies’ are appointed by the Court of Protection to make decisions on behalf of the individual who lacks capacity. Similar to the system of conservatorship, deputies can be appointed in two areas. The first, and most common type, covers property and financial affairs. The second, and much rarer type, involves personal welfare deputies who are appointed to make decisions about medical treatment and care.  

“While conservatorship (also called guardianship) and deputyship may sound similar, there are clear differences. In the UK the system is administered by The Office of the Public Guardian, which administers decisions made by the Court of Protection. Deputies’ powers are limited both in terms of what they can do and how long they are required, and specific limits can be specified by the Court of Protection, such as on how much they can spend. The court can also cancel a deputy’s appointment at any time if it decides the appointment is no longer in the best interests of the person who lacks capacity.  

“In the UK, the deputyship system acts as a well-regulated failsafe that ensures that where a lasting power of attorney (LPA) has not been put in place an individual’s affairs can be managed by someone else. Preparing an LPA in advance of a loss of capacity can save time, money and stress, and ensures the individual’s wishes are followed once they can no longer make decisions for themselves.”  

For more information or advice about deputyships and lasting powers of attorney contact a member of Furley Page’s Vulnerable client team led by Nicola August on 01227 763939.