The meltdown, like the rest of Britney Spears’ life, was painfully public. Subjected to the voyeuristic eye of the tabloid press, a young woman’s worst moments were sensationalized; first for profit, then for leverage in a custody battle, and then for control of her career and autonomy. We know how the story went, of the songbird in a gilded cage who fought for over a decade to be allowed to make her own decisions and live her own life.
Until a recent documentary covering the subject came out, many people had no idea that your rights can be taken away from you so easily for such a long time. People were so horrified to see what Britney Spears had endured that they caused an uproar great enough to spur even the most glacial of institutions into action.
The Oregon State Legislature passed a law in 2021 to give vulnerable people more protection and legal representation in Conservatorship hearings.
Sometimes, conservatorships are necessary to protect a person who might have lost the ability to make rational decisions. However, once you’re in a conservatorship, you might never get back out. A good Estate Plan contemplates not just what will happen after your death, but helps to protect your dignity and autonomy during your life as well. One of the ways to avoid the need for a conservatorship is to create a Revocable Living Trust that contemplates future financial incapacity and allows you to make decisions now to give direction to your trustee in the future. In a conservatorship, one person “wears the crown” and the other is deprived of that power. For instance, Britney Spears could not sign a contract for herself, but her father could sign a contract against her will. In a trust, you keep your “crown” and the trustee is acting on your behalf and under your direction. In a trust, there is no judge involved and your private matters are kept out of the public record.
All of us fortunate enough to live so long will need a little help one day. What none of us want is for someone to “help” us by taking away our decision-making power before it’s absolutely necessary to do so. The best way to ensure you protect your dignity and autonomy is to make decisions ahead of time. We have a chance today to put into place the tools necessary to allow your loved ones to support you tomorrow. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be faced with a loss of capacity in the future, consult with an Estate Planning Attorney today and put a plan in place to protect your future.
Attorney Nathan Begley is an estate planning and probate attorney in Gresham, Oregon, and is the owner of Gresham Family and Elder Law.