Much has been made in the past month over Britney Spears’ mental health conservatorship. From super fans creating the “Free Britney” movement, to the pop star’s own words in a Los Angeles courtroom, it’s been hard not to notice what’s going on with Miss Spears. But just what is a conservatorship, and what happens in the Mountain State if you or a loved one needs one?
According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, under the West Virginia Guardianship & Conservatorship Act, a guardian can be appointed to make legal or financial decisions on behalf of someone who is mentally or physically unable to do so for themselves.
“A conservator is a person appointed by the court who is responsible for managing the estate and financial affairs of a protected person. The practical responsibilities of a conservator may include controlling the protected persons assets, paying bills and managing property,” the DHHR’s Guardian and Conservator Handbook reads.
Unlike a guardian, a conservator is only responsible for making decisions about the finances of the protected person under the conservatorship. They’re put in charge of things like bills and paying rent. A conservatorship can be as little as 45 days or as long as the court deems necessary.
Now, you may not have Miss Spears’ money, but the idea behind a conservatorship in West Virginia is to protect your assets should you be unable to care for yourself. What we’ve seen out of Britney Spears’ case seems to overreach this simple concept into something more like what the state of West Virginia would call a Guardianship, which assigns a trusted person to care for the protected person’s personal affairs. This includes where and how the person will live, what they’ll eat, and making health care decisions on their behalf.