Most of our readers will be familiar with the 2009 movie, “The Blind Side” which tells the “rags to riches” life story of NFL Football player Michael Oher. In the film, Oher is taken in off the streets by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy and treated as a member of the family. He is then aided by the family on his way to play football for “Ole Miss” and eventually enter the NFL.
What Does Football Have To Do With Estate Planning?
You may be wondering where we are going with this. Well, recently, Michael Oher filed a court petition to end the conservatorship that had been granted to the Tuohy’s back in 2004 with a claim that he was tricked into signing the paperwork, which he believed was essentially an adoption. Oher also filed a petition requesting financial records from the Tuohy’s, claiming that they have kept almost 20 years worth of financial information away from him.
What is a Conservatorship?
If a conservatorship is not the same as an adoption, what is it? Essentially, a conservatorship is when a court appoints someone to manage general or specific financial and personal affairs for an individual who is underaged, or for an individual who is incapable or unfit to make decisions for themselves. According to the petition, Michael Oher believed he was being “adopted,” and only found out in early 2023 what the conservatorship really meant.
For more interesting content on conservatorships, listen to our podcasts about Brittany Spears.
What Do I Need To Know About Conservatorships?
If you have reason to consider petitioning for a conservatorship, there are a few things you may want to know. While we don’t provide any legal advice on this blog, we can offer you a couple of important tips.
Keep excellent (and we really do mean exceptionally good) records. One thing that doesn’t look very good for Sean and Leigh Anne is the lack of proper paperwork and court filings. In most jurisdictions, you must file an annual report concerning the status and wellbeing of the individual you have responsibility for. Always file your yearly report, and be sure that you follow all the procedures in your jurisdiction. It is understandable that you could become really busy taking care of an aging parent, but keeping those records is incredibly important. If you don’t have time to file, manage, and track the financial and legal tasks, hire a qualified attorney and accountant to do so.
Another important aspect is to always consider how your actions will appear from the outside. You are acting on behalf of another person and legally speaking, you have a fiduciary duty to take the actions that will provide the most benefit to the person you are protecting. Don’t sell mom’s house to the neighbor for less than market value, even if you believe that is what mom would want. Your siblings or other beneficiaries may disagree. Do the legwork to ensure that you are doing what is necessary to uphold your fiduciary duty. Avoid any actions that benefit you personally.
We cannot stress enough the importance of following the rules in your jurisdiction as you move forward as the conservatee of someone else’s personal and financial affairs. Hire the kind of attorney that will do everything that needs to be done, file complete accounting practices, and ensure that your decisions provide maximum benefit to the person you are protecting.
What Do We Think Happened with the Michael Oher Case?
Our professional opinion is that the Tuohy’s filed for this conservatorship in order to aid Michael in his transition from High School into college, then simply forgot about it. In response to the petition, Sean and Leigh Anne have stated that they are heartbroken, consider Michael to be family, and have always been open and fair. Additionally, they were independently wealthy before any of this happened and therefore didn’t need (or want) to take advantage of Michael in any way.
We plan to follow this case and keep you updated about how this plays out, so stay tuned.
To listen to our full podcast about Michael Oher and the Tuohy’s, click here.