Britney Spears’ conservatorship has been an issue of debate for a long time, and it is once again a hot topic. This time, it’s because of a documentary by The New York Times called “Framing Britney Spears” revealed the extent of control the 39-year-old pop star’s dad has over her life.
The documentary premiered February 5, 2021, on Hulu and FX. It’s mainly about the conflict over teen pop star’s conservatorship, which has allowed her dad to manage her career, estate, and personal life since 2008. It also delves into the #FreeBritney movement, a campaign by Britney’s superfans to free her from her conservatorship. Many believe her dad’s role as conservator is a scheme meant to control her and capitalize off her fame.
The documentary’s debut has amplified calls to “free Britney,” with several celebrities voicing their support for the movement. With the legal battle over who should control Britney’s finances and personal life scheduled to return to court this week, let’s break down what an adult conservatorship is all about.
What Exactly Is an Adult Conservatorship?
A conservatorship, or guardianship, is a complex legal process that allows a judge to grant a guardian (the conservator) full control over a person’s finances and personal health if that person (the conservatee) can’t manage them on their own. Advocates argue that conservatorships are necessary to protect a person’s wellbeing—and in many cases they are. Whether that’s true in Britney’s case is debatable.
Britney Spears has lived under conservatorship since 2008, following a string of meltdowns that included her publicly shaving her head. For 12 years, her dad, James “Jamie” Spears, oversaw Britney’s financial and personal life as one of her conservators. He and the other guardians had control over every single aspect of her life. This includes what she can buy, when she can travel, and what kind of mental health care she receives.
Britney’s dad stepped back from his role as her conservator in 2019, citing health reasons. At that time, a professional conservator temporarily took over the role. The current court battle revolves around control over her estate.
How Do Conservatorships in California Work?
Britney’s case is unique in its financial scope and the amount of attention it’s receiving. Standard conservatorships are quite boring and typically involve an adult (a spouse, child, parent, etc.) taking over the estate and personal care of a sick, mentally ill, or aging family member. There are three types of adult conservatorships in California:
- Conservatorship of the estate – A conservator takes control over a conservatee’s assets and is allowed to manage their finances. This arrangement allows the conservator to handle the conservatee’s bills, housing expenses, taxes, and investments. The conservator must maintain accurate financial records and regularly file financial reports with the court.
- Conservatorship of the person – A conservator takes control of a conservatee’s medical and personal decisions. The conservator can only make decisions about the conservatee’s food, shelter, clothing, and health care.
- Conservatorship of the estate and person – This is a mix of the above two scenarios. A conservator takes control of a conservatee’s finances and personal health and wellbeing.
In addition to the three variations of conservatorship, there are also two main types of conservatorships in California:
- Limited conservatorship – A conservator uses limited powers to handle an area a conservatee may not be able to manage on his or her own. For example, the conservatee might not be able to handle their finances, but they can take care of their personal needs. The court can appoint a conservator in this case to handle the conservatee’s finances and nothing else.
- General conservatorship – A conservatee can’t make financial or legal decisions and can’t take personal care of themselves. They require a higher level of care. In such cases, the court gives a conservator the power to provide for most, if not all, of the conservatee’s needs.
As you can see, conservatorship arrangements can vary depending on the conservatee’s circumstances. For Britney, it means her father has complete control over her estate and person. By all accounts, the pop icon hasn’t had control over her estimated $60 million fortune since 2008, when she was placed on involuntary psychiatric hold. According to Newsweek, she has to ask her dad “to sign off on every major decision she makes, from business, to health, to voting and marriage.”
So, What Does Britney Want?
Britney has made it clear through her court-appointed attorney that she doesn’t want her dad to be her conservator. She would like her current temporary conservator, Jodi Montgomery, to be made permanent. One day, she may seek to fully terminate her guardianship.
According to The Associated Press, the pop singer’s attorney told a judge in November that “she is afraid of her father.” Britney reportedly hasn’t spoken to her dad in a long time, and she refuses to perform again if he continues to have a hold over her career.
It is unclear whether Britney intends to terminate the conservatorship in the near future. However, she recently signaled approval of the #FreeBritney movement. Her lawyer wrote in court documents that she “welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans,” press sources indicate.
Terminating an Adult Conservatorship in California
Filing for conservatorship in California, or in any state, is a complicated process with several steps before a petition is approved. It’s not surprising that getting out of a conservatorship because of abuse or other issues is equally as difficult.
If you need assistance terminating a conservatorship of a person and/or estate, contact A People’s Choice. Our legal document assistants will guide you through every step of the process and help you complete and file the required forms in court. Call us today at 800-747-2780 to get started.
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