After the #FreeBritney campaign, you may be wondering what a conservatorship is, and whether the same exists in the UK. You may also be wondering whether conservatorship is the same as the closest UK equivalent, deputyship, and how it differs from the much more common authority of Lasting Power of Attorney.
Britney Spears, is by far the most famous modern example of a conservatorship, with her father Jamie Spears appointed by the court as her conservator in 2008 and ending 14 years later in 2021. Learn more about conservatorships and how we handle similar situations here in the UK below.
A conservatorship is a legal arrangement that exists in some states in the U.S, such as California. It is when a court decides that someone is incapable of making their own decisions and appoints an individual to act on their behalf. The rules around what makes someone unable to make their own decisions vary from state to state - each with its own nuanced laws and regulations. Under a conservatorship, the individual that is appointed to act on their behalf is called a guardian. The guardian can have control over financial affairs, and day-to-day life decisions (subject to any stipulations that the court makes). Depending on the state and the particular local rules conservatorships tend to last for long periods of time (such as a year), or without a formal end date.
Most often conservatorships are used to assist and protect people with dementia or other severe mental illness but they have come under scrutiny in recent years with allegations that they give too much power to guardians, that they are difficult to undo, leaving them open to abuse.
Conservatorship is a term used in some states in the U.S.A. In England and Wales we have something similar, but it’s called Deputyship. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it’s called Guardianship.
A Deputyship is a legal arrangement that is put in place when someone lacks mental capacity to make decisions for themselves due to injury, illness, etc. The court will appoint a Deputy to make decisions on their behalf.
There are two types of Deputyship:
The person wishing to be the Deputy and make decisions on behalf of someone else has to apply to the Court of Protection, you can either apply to be Property & Financial Affairs Deputy, Personal Welfare Deputy, or both.
The Court of Protection doesn’t just appoint you deputy because you applied.
The Court of Protection will check:
If they are happy with the above then they will give the Deputy legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the person that has lost mental capacity.
Anyone over 18 can apply to be a deputy, but usually, they are close relatives or friends of the person who needs help making decisions.
Some people are paid to act as deputies, for example, accountants, solicitors or representatives of the local authority.
The Court of Protection can appoint a specialist deputy (called a ‘panel deputy’) from a list of approved law firms and charities if no one else is available.
For the property and affairs deputy, the court looks to see if the person applying to be a deputy has the skills to make financial decisions for someone else.
The court can also appoint 2 or more deputies for the same person, depending on needs.
You do not need to be a deputy if you’re just looking after someone’s benefits. Apply to become an appointee instead.
Need more information? You can call our legal team at 0800 773 4014 for advice.
If you want more than one Deputy to be responsible for the person's affairs. You have to apply proposing two Deputies, and you must tell the court when you apply whether you’ll be applying as:
If your application to become a Deputy is successful, you’ll get a court order saying what you can and cannot do.
Once you become a Deputy, you must send an annual report to the Office of the Public Guardian each year explaining the decisions you’ve made. This may be subject to yearly fees.
The deputyship continues until the court order is changed, cancelled, or expires based on a set date given in the court order.
Other ways to make decisions for someone:
You can apply to the Court of Protection for a one-off order if you’re looking to make a single important decision for someone else.
If the person already has a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), they don’t usually need a Deputy. Check if they have an LPA or EPA.
A Deputyship is a court order that is granted when someone lacks mental capacity and needs someone to make decisions on their behalf right now. Whereas a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that lets you (the ‘donor’) appoint one or more people (known as ‘Attorneys’) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf if you lose mental capacity in the future. LPA is much more preemptive, and removes lots of the stress, costs and worry around having to seek Deputyship if something were to happen unexpectedly.
A Lasting Power of Attorney gives you the power to choose someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you were to have an accident or an illness and couldn’t make your own decisions (because you lacked mental capacity). It is also a chance to communicate your wishes ahead of time to improve the chances of decisions reflecting your wishes and wants.
Lasting Power of Attorney is used in England and Wales. There’s a different process in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Generally, it’s recommended that most people over the age of 25 should have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.
Not sure if you actually need a lasting power of attorney? Take our quiz here.
Anyone over 18 who has mental capacity - the ability to make your own decisions - can appoint an LPA.
Just like the deputyship, there are 2 types:
You can choose to appoint a Lasting Power of Attorney for one or both of these. It also means you can choose different people for each area to make decisions on your behalf if you’re ever not able to.
A Health & Welfare LPA can only be used if someone has lost their mental capacity as these decisions are deemed far more personal and it is far better for the individual to decide for themselves, if at all possible.
Take our quiz to see if you need a Lasting Power of Attorney here. Know you need one? Start your application here and get 25% off today