Jenny Rozelle, Host of Legal Tea
Current Trends - Amanda Bynes' Guardianship - Episode 40
Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners –This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Welcome back for another episode of Legal Tea! Before I dive in, today’s episode is number forty. Somehow, we’ve been rocking and rolling for forty weeks – wow. Time sure does fly. That means we’re, sort of, approaching one year (52 weeks). Maybe I should do something special and fun for it – anyway….
Today’s topic is a current trend … something going on in current time, that is pertinent to my little estate and elder law world. Occasionally, my office helps families obtain guardianship for their loved ones – either due to special needs (perhaps a minor kiddo who is about to turn 18) or due to cognitive impairment (think, dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.). Since we do help with guardianships, that’s why we have covered some guardianship “things” on Legal Tea.
If you recall, I did an episode a while back on Britney Spears and the guardianship over her. Today, we’re talking about Amanda Bynes and the guardianship over her. So many people know that Britney Spears was under a guardianship – after all, it was plastered all over the news, right? Though, so many don’t know that Amanda Bynes, until very recently, was under a guardianship too. That’s actually why I’m counting it as a “current trends” episode because while I knew Amanda was under a guardianship (I think I found out about it when I was doing my research for Britney Spears’ episode), it was JUST recently released that the Court has terminated Amanda’s guardianship.
So, what started Amanda’s guardianship and when? That’s what I wondering when I dove into things. Amanda herself helps answer that question – in an interview for Paper Magazine that was done in November 2018, Amanda provided a little insight as to what she was going through when things were spiraling. She said in the interview, “I just had no purpose in life. I’d been working my whole life and now I was doing nothing. I had a lot of time on my hands and I would ‘wake and bake’ and literally be stoned all day long … I was hanging out with a seedier crowd and I isolated a lot. I got really into my drug usage, and it became a really dark, sad world for me.”
According to US Weekly, the guardianship process began in 2013 when Amanda, after some mental health issues and substance abuse issues as she herself referenced, was hospitalized. She was put in a psychiatric hold for starting a fire in a neighbor’s driveway. It was not until August 2014, however, that Amanda’s mother, Lynn, was officially named the conservator (or guardian) of her daughter’s personal/health affairs (which is called guardian of the person) and financial/legal affairs (which is called guardian of the estate). Then, in 2018, it was requested for the guardianship to stay intact and that was granted – so the guardianship was extended until August 2020.
Still according to US Weekly, the next big thing happened in August 2021, when the guardianship of the estate was terminated, but Lynn remained the guardian of Amanda as a person (to maintain decision-making for Amanda’s health/personal affairs). Finally, which is what happened this year (2022), Amanda asked the Court to end the guardianship – this happened on February 23, 2022. In the Petition, she submitted a declaration from her psychiatrist, who stated: “[Amanda] has not apparent impairment in alertness and attention, information and processing, or ability to modulate mood and affect … and suffers no thought disorders.” Amanda’s mother, Lynn, supported her daughter’s request to terminate the guardianship.
Also in the Petition, Amanda shared that in 2020, she had moved to a facility for women that promoted transitioning to a more independent-living life. That happened; she ended up moving out of the facility and living independently where, according to the US Weekly article, she gets drug tested fairly often to ensure she maintains a clean living. In September 2021, Amanda’s attorney, David Esquibias, noted that freeing Amanda of the guardianship and, generally speaking, getting her to a better place in life, was the goal of himself, Amanda’s mother, Amanda’s father, and Amanda’s health care providers. It seems everyone was on the same page and fighting for the same thing.
Saying that – that is probably why the news liked to talk about Britney Spears’ guardianship because it felt more contentious (due to the relationship between Britney and her parents, sister, manager, etc.) than Amanda’s guardianship. I’d say that is very likely the case. That, because Amanda’s guardianship was not as “juicy” as Britney’s, it just didn’t get the news’ attention.
So, as I already shared, in February 2022, guardianship of the Estate of Amanda was terminated; then, in terms of the most current update, on March 22, 2022, the guardianship of the Person of Amanda was terminated. Officially, as of that date, guardianship was officially out of Amanda’s hair. According to her attorney, David, via a TMZ article, Amanda “appreciates the love and support of her fans during this time. She thanks her family for never giving up. Now that the conservatorship has ended, she looks forward to completing her bachelors degree and living her life.” Good for her! I love a Legal Tea episode that is nice and positive!
Beyond all of this, Amanda had announced on February 14, 2020 (so if you’re keeping things straight – this was when the guardianship of the estate and person were both still in place), that she was engaged to a gentleman by the name of Paul Michael. Paul and Amanda met in 2019. In mid-2020, Amanda confirmed that her and Paul were still together. Then, as the hearing was approaching (the hearing that ended up terminating her guardianship), Amanda, through her attorney, David, shared that her and Paul were going to be moving in together in a rental in the Los Angeles area. So, sounds like things are still “looking up” for Amanda, her life, her engagement, her … everything! It sounds like she agrees.
In a statement from Amanda to People Magazine, Amanda shared, “Following today’s decision by the Judge to terminate my conservatorship, I would like to thank my fans for their love and well wishes during this time. I would also like to thank my lawyer and my parents for their support over the last nine years. In the last several years, I have been working hard to improve my health so that I can live and work independently, and I will continue to prioritize my well-being in this next chapter. I am excited about my upcoming endeavors – including my fragrance line – and look forward to sharing more when I can.”
Interestingly, while I was researching for this episode, I kept thinking – THIS is how guardianships, in these situations, are supposed to work. They’re ideally meant to be temporary, so that the person’s support system can embrace the person and provide a path to get the person in a better place. You know, I can only speak to the legal aspect of the guardianship process, but it feels like a psychology and sociology experiment waiting to happen – why does it “feel” like Britney’s guardianship was a failure … and Amanda’s guardianship was the opposite? It was successful. Some would say Britney’s guardianship was successful to be able to get her to where she is now, but I know there are a whole lot of people, too, that would say it was a massive failure, too.
Does it center around the support system? Or lack thereof? It seems the relationship between Britney and her family was more contentious than Amanda and her family. Does it center around the Court and lawyers? There’s not-great talk about the legal system and attorneys within Britney’s guardianship, yet it seems that Amanda and her lawyer, David, were a true team. Does it center around the person (the Britney, the Amanda) and how bad they want to see change in themselves? I’m sure it may be ALL of the above – and more, that I’m not even thinking of.
I suppose all of this is a wonderful example of how even “normal” guardianships work – i.e. the kind of guardianships that me and my office do. Oftentimes, like I shared much earlier, guardianships in my world are mostly done in one of two situations:
1. A special needs kiddo about to turn 18 (and when they’re 18, they’re considered an adult and can make their own decisions free of their parents’ help); and
2. An older adult or senior who has developed cognitive impairment and doing things not in their own best interests (i.e. I had a gentleman once that accidentally set his house on fire because he thought his microwave was the clothes dryer).
When I explain guardianships to families, I often describe them as “never going away.” What I mean by that is for the guardianship to remain active and in good standing with the Court, we have to file reports to the Court every two years. The reports, 90% of the time don’t require us to head to a hearing, it’s merely a written report that explains a few things: 1) where the person currently lives; 2) where the guardian(s) currently live; 3) any significant changes to assets or income; 4) any significant changes to the person’s health; and 5) we have to attach a declaration from the person’s doctor recommending the guardianship remain intact. The Court requires this because they’re keeping an eye on the person, their status, their health, and the guardian(s) (and are they doing what they should do, etc.).
For that reason, in my little world, most of the time guardianships don’t really ever end – they remain intact until the person passes away. Granted, I don’t really do guardianships in cases where people are going through similar issues like Britney Spears and Amanda Bynes – mental health issues, drug use, etc. Oftentimes, those types of guardianships start out as an emergency, temporary guardianship because there’s some sort of trigger that causes the need for the guardianship. We don’t handle emergency guardianships like that, but have great referrals to attorneys that do.
Anyway okay, let’s wrap this “current trends/current events” episode up, shall we? Next week’s topic is on estate planning of the rich and the famous – on that episode, we’re going to talk about the lovely Betty White! If you recall, a handful of episodes ago, we did a “current trends” episode on the #BettyWhiteChallenge and talked about 1) “how” to incorporate pets into your estate planning and 2) how to incorporate provisions to gift money to charitable organizations that support animals. That episode was not about Betty’s estate plan following her passing – next week’s episode will be. So, we’ll talk about Betty White next Tuesday, Legal Tea Listeners. Talk to you then and stay well!