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Madison Clark

Britney Spears has been one of the world's most famous and popular pop performers since her breakthrough single, "...Hit Me Baby One More Time," when she was a teen. Despite her celebrity status and immense wealth, Britney, who is now 39, has never really had complete control over her life, a fate most of us cannot imagine for a person of her age.

Britney Spears has been in a conservatorship for the past 13 years, as most pop culture fans are aware. A conservatorship, often known as "adult guardianship," is the legal framework in which Britney's father, Jaime Spears, and other individuals have practically unlimited authority over her legal, financial, and personal decisions. Britney's conservatorship was first created in February 2008, after she experienced a mental breakdown and was briefly hospitalized.  

This article discusses Britney Spears’ conservatorship, including the FREE Act and what you and your loved ones may consider doing to avoid her fate.

A Complete Lack of Control

Britney's father and attorney Andrew Wallet were designated as her co-conservators by the court in 2008, after Britney was declared mentally unable to care for herself. The arrangement was only supposed to be temporary, but the conservatorship was extended in October of that year, and Britney's father has had practically unlimited control of her life ever since.  

Britney's father has the authority to limit her visitors; he is in charge of arranging and approving her visits with her own children; he has the authority to make her medical decisions; and he has the final say in all of her business dealings, including when she works, as well as complete control over her finances.  

Britney's present mental-health situation is unknown, and we don't know if she still needs someone to help her manage her finances and business activities. But it's evident that if Britney had the option, she would have liked to have a say not just in who should make decisions on her behalf during her incapacity, but also in how those decisions should be made.  

However, because Britney did not create legal paperwork specifying who should make decisions for her if she was unable to do so herself, a court made those decisions for her—and as you'll see below, this has caused Britney a great deal of pain and has wrecked her relationship with her father. With that in mind, we'll start with the most recent details on Britney's conservatorship and the influence it's had on the pop star's life and business.  Then, utilizing proactive estate planning method, we'll talk about how you can prevent something similar from occurring to you and your loved ones.  

Years of Abuse and Disturbance

Despite widespread assumption that Britney's conservatorship was abusive, the specifics of her conservatorship have remained confidential. Furthermore, Britney has never spoken publicly about her life under the arrangement until lately.  

Britney's father and others connected with the conservatorship have insisted that the arrangement saved Britney from herself and others who wanted to take advantage of her when she was at her most vulnerable. They talked about how Britney's conservatorship helped her get out of debt and helped her amass a fortune of nearly $60 million. Furthermore, representatives for the conservatorship have stated that Britney could seek to terminate the conservatorship at any time.  

However, two bombshell discoveries in recent weeks have shown just how much Britney has suffered as a result of the conservatorship and how she has struggled for years to reclaim control of her life from her father without success.  

Britney had shown strong opposition to her conservatorship as early as 2014, according to confidential court records obtained by the newspaper, and on many occasions, the pop icon fought for her father's removal from his position. Britney finally broke her silence the next day in a public court appearance on June 23, and what she said was remarkable.  

Britney pleaded with Judge Brenda Penny to end the conservatorship, claiming she has been subjected to years of abuse and exploitation, including being forced to take a powerful mood stabilizer that makes her feel drunk, being forced to work while seriously ill, and being forced to stay on birth control, preventing her from having more children.

Britney's father has responded by adamantly denying any wrongdoing and insisting that he is acting in his daughter's best interests. In fact, his lawyers filed a petition with the court a few days later, demanding that the court investigate Britney's allegations of abuse.  

Britney's attempt to have her father removed as conservator was dismissed by Judge Penny a week later. However, the judge's decision was based only on Britney's lawyer's request in November 2020 to have a wealth management business, Bessemer Trust, take over as sole conservator, not on Britney's emotional testimony.

A Faulty System

Britney's tale exemplifies the genuine possibility of abuse in the conservatorship and guardianship systems. Indeed, there have been scores of high-profile reports in recent years involving crooked professional guardians who exploit individuals in their care for personal benefit. However, the victims in those cases were almost all old, and the perpetrators were strangers. However, Britney's case demonstrates that anyone of any age can be victims of these restrictive legal agreements, and the perpetrators can even be family members.  

Furthermore, and arguably the most perplexing aspect of the case, why is Britney still under conservatorship when she is so young and active? Conservatorships and guardianships are commonly employed to protect the elderly and mentally impaired who are unable to make their own decisions or care for themselves, and they often last until the person passes away.  

Although Britney initially required the conservatorship to protect her from her own poor judgments and others seeking to take advantage of her following her breakdown in 2008, she has worked virtually constantly since then and earned millions of dollars. Britney has released four albums, headlined three global tours, performed approximately 250 concerts in a Las Vegas residency, and served as a judge on the TV show "The X Factor" in the ten years since she was found "incapable of making her own decisions."  

We don't know the exact conditions of Britney's mental health because of the private nature of her conservatorship and the fact that she has never completely revealed the facts of her diagnosis. Although there have been rumors and conjecture that Britney suffers from bipolar disorder, none of this has been proven, and her medical records have been sealed.  

Furthermore, according to court papers obtained by the New York Times, although it was reported in 2019 that Britney entered herself into a mental health institution and was administered lithium, an older medicine used to treat bipolar disorder, this wasn't totally true. Britney testified in 2019 that she was forced into the institution against her will, and she told the judge at her most recent hearing that she was also compelled to take the lithium against her will.  

In the end, if Britney wants to get her conservatorship lifted, she'll have to show the court that she's capable of making her own decisions about her life, health, and finances. Britney will almost surely have to face another mental health evaluation in order to do so, which would almost certainly include a court hearing and testimony from mental health doctors.  

By all reports, Britney is apprehensive about undergoing yet another mental health evaluation. However, if Britney truly wants to be free and have complete control over her life, this may be her only option.   

The FREE Act

Conservatorships are the subject of a bipartisan bill called the "Free Britney" Act.  

The FREE Act, often known as the "Free Britney" Act, would make it easier for people in conservatorships to make changes.  

A bill proposed by a bipartisan pair of senators aims to make it simpler for persons under conservatorships, such as singer Britney Spears, to petition a judge to replace their conservator, who is legally responsible for making decisions for them.  

The bill's real name is the Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation Act, but it's been dubbed the "Free Britney" Act by Reps. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who proposed it, in light of the mounting public indignation over the singer's situation.  

If passed, the bill might let Spears get out of a 13-year-old legal agreement that has severely restricted her personal liberties. It would allow anyone under conservatorship to ask for their private conservator to be replaced with a public conservator without having to prove any wrongdoing. It would also appoint independent caseworkers to keep an eye on conservatorships for indicators of abuse and increase transparency.  

Last month, the singer told a California judge that she had no idea she had the ability to ask the court to terminate the contract entirely. She expressed a desire to do so as quickly as possible, claiming that it was prohibiting her from practicing a number of personal liberties.  

Her surprising comments before Judge Brenda Penny of the Los Angeles Superior Court underlined the possibility for abuse in conservatorships. The plans are designed for persons who lack the mental or physical competence to care for themselves, such as the elderly or infirm. Spears, on the other hand, has done hundreds of concerts since the start of her conservatory, earning millions of dollars to support herself, her family, her staff, and her fellow performers.  

Spears was given permission recently to select a new attorney of her choosing, marking the first time in more than a decade that she has had a role in her legal representation. As a first move, the new counsel, Mathew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor, promised Monday to discontinue Spears' father's connection with the conservatorship.

How Can I Avoid Britney's Fate?

We have little to no control over the possibility of disability, whether it is due to mental illness, age-related dementia, or a terrible accident. However, with appropriate estate planning, you can have some control over how your life, healthcare, and possessions are managed in the event that something unfortunate occurs. Furthermore, such planning can spare your family the unpleasant dispute and financial outlay that might occur when you sign over control of your life to the courts, as Britney did.  

By working with us, O'Flaherty Law, P.C., we can put in place a variety of estate planning instruments that make it nearly impossible for a conservator or legal guardian to be appointed—or even necessary—against your preferences. Contact us to learn more.

Request a consultation with an attorney. Call our office at (630) 324-6666 or schedule a consultation with one of our experienced lawyers today. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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