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Oct. 27, 2021, 5:02 a.m. EDT

Britney Spears case paves the way for fixing the conservatorship system—but corruption runs deep

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Erica Loberg

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Of course, not all conservatorships are abusive, and some are extremely helpful for families. But the system is in dire need of fixing. If you draw the parallels of certain conservators working with particular judges and court-appointed counsel, you’ll find a pattern that is persistent and historic.

Sam Ingham, who was removed from Spears as her court-appointed counsel, works with my late mother’s previous conservator to this day.

In order for states to regulate who can become a conservator, the system must remove corrupt judges who have the final say in who can become one.

Checks and balances?

Conservators can build a case against family members to keep them out of the equation and block them from becoming conservators. Having a review process to see how conservatorships operate would be helpful if the people conducting the reviews weren’t working in conjunction with corrupt conservators, which could very well happen.

California is supposed to have a conservatorship system with checks and balances. But based on my experience, this is not the case. When I reported my mother’s conservator to the California State Fiduciary Bureau (along with a handful of other victims), nothing happened.

Don’t miss: My elderly mother-in-law has progressive dementia. My sister-in-law charged her $70K in rent. Is this ethical?

Allowing a conservatee access to free legal advice could be beneficial,  if  they’re able to plead their case in front of a fair, impartial judge. I can’t say that free legal advice would have helped me when I was up against a questionable judicial system, though it would’ve saved our family some money.

Cracking down on prohibiting guardians from limiting visitation by loved ones would also have been advantageous for our family, but my mom’s conservator was extremely sneaky in his tactics. Manipulating her with emotional abuse happened behind closed doors. It was almost impossible to police the psychological abuse that occurred during my mother’s conservatorship.

Fooling someone into signing documents to keep them away from their family is criminal, but those signatures stand up in court.

In conservatorship, restraining orders legally keep loved ones away from their family members. If the judiciary system could examine attempts to isolate victims, that would be very useful in identifying predatory conservators. At the very least, it would raise a red flag.

I applaud conservatorship reforms to better train conservators and guardians. But weeding out abusive conservators is challenging and issuing fines will merely scratch the surface. All the money amassed during a corrupt conservatorship should also be returned. And if corrupt conservators knew they could be liable for inflicting financial, emotional and psychological abuse, and potentially face jail time, that would be a crucial step toward robust change. 

Taking on problematic conservators who work with court-appointed lawyers, judges and doctors will be a monumental task.

But if Britney Spears’ #FreeBritney movement has shown us anything, it’s that advocates are instrumental for change. Victims and their families need advocates who can guide them through the knotty conservatorship process.

If you are dealing with an abusive conservatorship, contact your local government officials. Document everything that unfolds. Establish a list of all people involved in your toxic conservatorship and get ready to hold them accountable once any new laws go into effect.

Erica Loberg is a poet and author. Her new book of poetry, “I’m Not Playing,” is based on her experience with her mother’s conservatorship. Her book “Inside the Insane” is a memoir about her struggles with Bipolar II coupled with a look at inpatient psych wards in Los Angeles County. She can be reached at 

This article is reprinted by permission from  , © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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