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Amanda Bynes' parents seek conservatorship

Those who follow celebrity gossip have heard about the recent events in the life of Amanda Bynes, including her arrests and increasingly strange behavior. Most recently, Bynes was reported to have poured gasoline on her pet Pomeranian and set her pants on fire in an elderly woman's driveway. Afterward, authorities committed Bynes temporarily to a psychiatric hospital.

Now, Bynes parents have filed for conservatorship on her behalf. Conservatorships are court-supervised arrangements in which an individual is appointed to act as the decision-maker and manager of the financial or personal affairs of another. Conservatorships often happen in cases involving minors and elderly persons whose mental health has declined, but they are also sometimes used in cases where a younger person's mental health is a concern.

In California, a "conservatorship" can be with respect to financial or non-financial decisions.

In order to have somebody appointed as conservator over another person, a California court needs proof that the latter individual is not able to provide for his or her own personal needs regarding physical health, food, clothing, or shelter. For financial conservatorships, it must be shown that the individual has a “substantial inability to manage their own finances or to resist fraud or undue influence.”

Whether or not a conservatorship is granted depends in part on medical and psychological evaluation of the individual in question. In Bynes’ case, it isn’t clear yet what is going on.

Conservatorships are not a particularly preferable way of handling a loved one’s affairs. A preferred approach would be to use estate planning techniques to avoid dealing with the conservatorship process, including living trusts and powers of attorney. Still, there are situations where conservatorships are the most sensible thing to pursue, given the circumstances. 

Source: Forbes, “Will Conservatorship Work For Amanda Bynes?,” Danielle & Andy Mayoras, July 26, 2013.