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#FreeBritney: What is Conservatorship?

With all the buzz going around about the #FreeBritney trial, we wanted to shed some light on what conservatorship really means.

Why is Britney Spears making headlines again lately, and what is the #FreeBritney movement? What even is conservatorship, and is it something I should be concerned about? 

The Princess of Pop has been splashing headlines, and you could arguably attribute it to the recent release of the New York Times documentary, “Framing Britney Spears.” The film examines Britney’s legal battles to be freed from her conservatorship that has lasted since 2008. The film is also arguably fanning the flames of the #FreeBritney movement. 

If you’ve been wondering what all the buzz is about, we’ve got you covered. We’ll explain all you need to know about conservatorship, Britney’s legal battles, and what the #FreeBritney movement is all about. We’ll also go over why estate planning is the ultimate vehicle for self-empowerment.

Who is Britney Spears?

Britney Spears is an American singer and songwriter who has released numerous hit singles since the 1990s. She has also released some of the best-selling albums worldwide, such as “...Baby One More Time” and “Oops!... I Did It Again.” Many call her the “Princess of Pop.”

In 2008, Britney had a breakdown that was very public in nature. This led her father, Jamie Spears, to place her under legal conservatorship. The conservatorship continues today, and continues to splash headlines under the #FreeBritney movement. 

What is Conservatorship?

According to the Superior Court of California, conservatorship is a legal action through which a judge can grant one or more guardians the right to fully control the finances of an individual. However, it must be proven that the individual is mentally or physically incapable of managing the finances on their own.

These conservatorships are ordered by the court, and the guardian must regularly report to the court. The conservator is not only responsible for the individual’s wealth and asset management, they are also in charge of their “person,” meaning their day-to-day affairs. This could include anything from living arrangements, child care, or medical decisions. Typically, conservatorships are ordered for the guardians of adults with developmental disabilities, or elderly persons with dementia. 

This topic has come to light in popular media as certain high profile celebrities have been placed under conservatorship, such as Britney Spears and actress Amanda Bynes.

Conservatorship vs. Guardianship

It’s important not to mix up guardianship and conservatorship. Both are legal tools that are intended to protect the wellbeing of either adults or children. Both require legal proceedings, which result in a court order for an appointed person to make decisions on another person’s behalf. 

The key difference is whether or not the individual in person is a minor. If a person is appointed to manage the affairs of a minor child, then that person is a guardian. A conservator indicates that they are managing the affairs of an adult who has become incapacitated, either mentally or physically.

It should be noted here that the laws and terminology can be slightly depending on what state you’re in. Some states may use the term “guardian” for either case, with “conservator” indicating an individual who just handles the finances.

In California, conservatorship indicates that all aspects of that person’s life are managed by the conservator.

What is the #FreeBritney Movement?

#FreeBritney is a movement that was largely created online by Britney super fans. In short, they believe that the legal conservatorship is unfair. The popstar was placed under conservatorship in 2008 after a mental breakdown, with her father as the conservator. At age 38, Britney is still under conservatorship today. Fans started the movement to bring light to the legal battles between Britney and her father, online, on social media, and protesting outside of courthouses. Fans call discrepancies in conservatorship into question, and many question whether the conservatorship is in Britney’s best interest. The recent release of the “Framing Britney Spears” documentary has reignited this movement that has gained traction on and off over the last twelve years.

What Are the Details of Britney’s Conservatorship?

In 2008, Britney had a public meltdown and was taken to a psychiatric hospital. Soon after, her father Jamie Spears filed a petition with the Los Angeles court, which named him and an attorney as Britney’s co-conservators.

The conservatorship meant that Britney’s father would have to sign off on any major decision made, from personal to legal and anything in between. In 2019, attorney Andrew Wallet resigned from his co-conservator role, stating essentially that the conservatorship was to Britney’s detriment, and that it would cause more harm than good. 

After Wallet’s departure, Jamie Spears then became Britney’s sole conservator. To complicate things, Jamie Spears was relieved from this role after an alleged altercation with one of Britney’s sons. After this period, Britney’s care manager stepped in as the director of Britney’s care, while Jamie continued to manage her finances.

Last year, Britney launched a legal bid to remove Jamie Spears from her conservatorship completely. Since then, the courts have denied the request and extended Mr. Spears’ co-conservatorship until September 2021. However, it should be noted that the court ordered that the Bessemer Trust and Jamie Spears serve as co-conservators over Britney’s finances.

Although Britney’s move to remove her father from her conservatorship was denied, Mr. Spears must share his decision making with the trust. Ultimately, Britney remains under conservatorship today.

Why Estate Planning Is The Ultimate Form of Self Empowerment

Estate Planning is the ultimate form of empowerment, because it gives us the opportunity to specify exactly what we want to happen, and how, if anything unexpected were to happen. The Britney Spears case is a prolonged history of legal battles bringing to light important topics such as mental health, power of affairs, and one’s own free will. 

Although no one ever wants to become mentally or physically incapacitated, it’s always best to get your affairs in order and be prepared for the unexpected. Through your Trust or Will (your Estate Plan), you can name a Power of Attorney. This is the individual who is legally able to act in your best interest should you suddenly become unable to make your own decisions. Based on how your structure the role of your Power of Attorney, this individual can call the shots of your care, medical decisions, finances, and any other affairs you deem fit. 

In other words, this is your opportunity to name the person you would entrust to call the shots and manage your affairs, if you ever became unable to do so on your own. Not sure where to get started? Call one of our specialists today! Our platform makes it super easy and affordable to set up an Estate Plan, and that way, you can rest easy knowing that you are empowered over your own life.