It seems that conservatorships may become a new trend to help wild and out-of-control celebrities in Hollywood.
It sure helped Britney Spears. After her escapades of a hairless head, posing for the paparazzi with no panties, and excessive partying and drinking, her father, James Spears, filed for conservatorship. This allowed him to become her legal decision-maker and help turn her life and career around.
Then came talk of a conservatorship for Lindsay Lohan. She's had multiple DUI arrests and been sentenced to jail time and rehab, more than once. Most recently, she's facing a possible felony sentence for allegedly lifting a diamond necklace from a jewelry store.
A few months ago, Lindsay bristled at the reports that her father was attempting to file for conservatorship over her. Michael Lohan did not end up filing the court case, but with this latest criminal trouble, can another attempt be far off?
Most recently, Martin Sheen and his wife are said to be considering filing for conservatorship for Charlie Sheen. With the recent allegations of Charlie throwing his life away with excessive partying with porn stars, drug use, and alcohol abuse, he obviously needs help. He reportedly began rehab recently, but he's been down that road before.
So what is a conservatorship? It's a court process, typically in probate court, where a judge appoints a person to make legal decisions on behalf of someone who isn't capable of making them appropriately. Called guardianships in many states, this court process is designed primarily to help the elderly and developmentally-disabled when they lack the mental capacity to make proper decisions and need protection.
These laws weren't written for out-of-control Hollywood stars who suffer from drunkenness or drug-use instead of dementia or mental disability.
So are conservatorships really the right way to help these troubled celebrities?
Let's start with the law. In California, a "conservator of the person" is generally appointed when someone is "unable to provide properly for his or her personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter."
So the key here is "physical health." And we all know what is impacting their health -- drugs and alcohol.
But, even with conservatorship, the Sheens and the Lohans wouldn't be able to order Charlie or Lindsay to stop abusing their bodies with substances of both legal and illegal nature. Instead, they want what the parents of all alcoholic and narcotic-loving people want -- rehab. Not just voluntary rehab that may last for a day or two, but forced rehab that doesn't end until the addictions are under control.
Even with conservatorship, there's no automatic power to force them into rehab. Rather, those seeking conservatorship of the person, in California, would first have to prove that the Charlies and Lindsays of the world are unable to "respond knowingly and intelligently to queries about medical treatment" or "participate in a treatment decision by means of a rational thought process."
Just because they may be out-of-control addicts doesn't necessarily mean they can't form coherent thoughts to make basic medical decisions.
Remember, it's not just a question of whether they are making bad -- or even dangerous -- decisions. The question is, are they unable to respond to treatment questions or participate in treatment decisions?
Peter Falk, for example, was subject to conservatorship proceedings a couple years ago. Because of his Alzheimer's disease, he could not make basic decisions to care for himself, or even remember visits with his daughter.
Charlie and Lindsay aren't suffering from that type of mental decline. Yet, the process seems to have worked for Britney. So maybe Charlie and Lindsay need to have their legal rights to make even basic decisions taken away from them, too.
And then the judges of California can get ready for a flood of other Hollywood stars who can't seem to just say no.
By Andy and Danielle Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of an upcoming national PBS special. The charismatic duo has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show, Forbes, ABC's Live Well Network, WGN-TV and has lent their expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources. As dynamic keynote speakers, Danielle and Andy delight audiences nationwide with highly entertaining and informative presentations, dishing the dirt on celebrity estate battles while dispensing important legal information.
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