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Child Star Sheds Light on Guardianships & Conservatorships

Clarkston Legal Nov. 28, 2014

Recently, I came across an article in the Probate Lawyer Blog that focused on the deteriorating health of celebrity actress Amanda Bynes, and how her parents were eventually forced to seek a guardianship and a conservatorship for their famous daughter. Guardianships and conservatorships are an effective way to ensure those who can’t care for themselves are protected.

The primary purpose of a guardianship is to provide a substitute decision maker for an adult who is unable to make certain day-to-day decisions. These decisions can include medical decisions, establishing a place to live, providing meals, medications and clothing and other day-to-day necessities.

A conservatorship on the other hand, deals mainly with managing the finances or assets of a legally incapacitated individual. This fiduciary arrangement is typically the result of an individual that may be competent to live independently, but due to an incapacity, infirmity, or deteriorating health, have difficulty managing their money or property.

Former child star, Amanda Bynes’ mental health issues went viral. The blog post refers to alcohol and drug-related charges, shoplifting, and even dousing her dog with gasoline in her driveway. Chronic substance abuse is a basis on which a guardianship can be based.

In 2013, Amanda Bynes’ parents filed petitions for guardianship and conservatorship, which when granted, gave them the right to make decisions for their famous [now infamous] daughter. Subsequent to the establishment of these fiduciary proceedings, she appeared to be doing much better. In fact, after a year of good progress, her parents decided not to renew the guardianship or conservatorship, reestablishing Amanda’s independence.

Unfortunately, as soon as she was on her own again, Amanda reverted to her old ways. She was kicked out of school, suspected of shoplifting again, and took to twitter and other social media outlets trashing her father; later recanting the disparagement, and blaming her statements on a chip installed in her brain.

The story of Amanda Bynes’ deteriorating health is one that has been all over the media for years. While it is very sad, it shows that mental health issues in this country are a serious problem. The blog article cited that 1 in 4 adults in the United States have suffered a serious mental health issue.

This problem presents a dilemma for the loved ones of the mentally incapacitated individual. Do they step aside and allow the individual to continue to attempt to manage their own affairs? Or should they step in, and involve the courts in an attempt to obtain a guardianship or conservatorship over them?

The thought of guardianships and conservatorships can be rather demoralizing for many. Essentially, these petitions allege that the adult is incapable of caring for her own affairs; this is such a blow to the ego that many family members avoid the process altogether.

In the case of Ms. Bynes, once her parents took control of her affairs, she began to get her life back on track. Only when these fiduciary relationships lapsed did she relapse to her former habits. Although it may be a tough pill to swallow, guardianships and conservatorships can vastly improve the quality of life for an incapacitated individual.

Our law firm offers free consultations on guardianships and conservatorships, including the probate process involved with establishing such fiduciary relationships.