In this celebrity Monday we will discuss the conservatorship of Britney Spears. Conservatorships are generally reserved for people who lack capacity, or have severe physical or cognitive disabilities. So it’s no wonder why many people are confused about why, and how, Britney Spears’ father was able to take control over Britney Spears’s life and career.
To understand the Britney Spears conservatorship, you need to understand what a conservatorship is for. A conservatorship is a court proceeding whereby a person’s civil rights or civil liberties are restricted and/or given over to someone else known as “a conservator.” Since the fifth amendment to the United States Constitution restricts taking somebody’s life liberty or property without “due process of law,” the court has strict procedures in place anytime a conservatorship is requested.
Generally, a court will not grant a conservatorship over someone unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the person (1) lacks capacity to make his or her own decisions; or (2) is unable to resist fraud or undue influence.
Clearly, Britney Spears has capacity to make her own choices in life. So it is very confusing to many people why her dad was given so much power over her life and career by the courts. But it is in that second element, above, where the answer lies.
Let me explain:
If you will recall, back in 2008, Britney Spears was having a rough time. Many of you were old enough to recall events from back in 2008 will certainly remember the episode where Britney Spears shaved her head in a now viral video. The other things were going on as well. The initial petition to appoint a conservator was filed in 2008. That petition listed Britney Spears’s “permanent residence” as UCLA medical center, which indicates to me that Britney Spears was placed on some sort of medical hold or psychological confinement at the time the petition was filed.
Many of the court documents have been sealed so I haven’t had access to the full record, but from what I do have access to, and from what I have read, it appears that the court initially granted Brittany’s dad powers of conservatorship over her related to her mental health. These kinds of conservatorships are typically given in circumstances where the conservatee refuses to care for him or herself and/or refuses reasonable medical treatment under the circumstances.
The most recent filings indicates that not only with Britney Spears’ dad given control over Britney Spears’ health care decisions, but he was also given control over her entire financial estate. This is known as a “conservatorship of the estate.”
What strikes me as fundamentally odd (and I am speculating because of a lack of information since I can’t access the court records) is the fact that 13 years after the episode in 2008, the court has not revoked or removed Brittany’s dad as her conservator. The cynical part of me believes that Brittany’s dad does not want to relinquish control over his daughter’s estate because (as public court filings demonstrate) he is being paid $16,000 per month to manage her estate. Additionally, attorneys and conservatorship cases get paid a “reasonable fee” from the conservatee’s estate. That means that Britney Spears is actually paying the attorneys representing her dad keeping her in the court ordered conservatorship.
It is no wonder why the hashtag free Britney movement has gained so much traction.
If there is one good thing that to come from this, it is the public awareness of conservatorship proceedings. Conservatorships are great tools for parents and other family members to care for their loved ones and children. When a child with a physical or cognitive disability turns 18, his or her parents have no legal authority to continue to act as their “guardians.” Thus, conservatorship proceedings help families maintain that control for the protection of persons who are unable, or unwilling, to care for themselves.
Unfortunately, at times these types of proceedings can be misused and abused.
If you are a family with a child or family member who has special needs, and you’re interested in learning whether conservatorship may be the right option for you and your loved one, feel free to give us a call and arrange a free consultation. We offer a wide variety of packages and payment plans for conservatorships so that regardless of your financial situation, you can get the legal help you need.