Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Why conservatorships like the one controlling Britney Spears can lead to abuse

Estate planningBritney Spears testified in a California court that her dad was "ruining her life" and also stated, "I'm here to get rid of my dad and charge him with conservatorship abuse." 

Britney Spears claimed that "a team led by her father controlled her schedule, prevented her from having another baby and bullied her." 

A judge in the case recently made a ruling that will allow Spears to hire her own lawyer. Spears has decided to hire former prosecutor Mathew Rosengart. 

Typically, conservatorships are not imposed on those who do not have severe cognitive impairments, which makes Britney Spears' situation highly unusual. Spears has embarked on a world tour and earned $131 million "all while deemed legally unfit to manage her finances or her own body." 

Conservatorships are legal arrangements that give a third party control over someone else. The Court has the sole powers to enforce and terminate them. Generally, conservators/guardians hold broad powers. 

In Britney Spears' case, her dad Jamie Spears is her the conservator. As Britney Spears' conservator, Jamie has received at least $5 million in fees. 

The board powers and "anemic oversight make conservatorships subject to multiple forms of abuse, ranging from the imposition of unnecessary restrictions on the individual to financial mismanagement." 

Since nothing can be done if no one finds out about the abuse or reports it, the magnitude of the problem goes largely unnoticed. 

The National Center for State Courts estimated in 2016 that 1.3 million adults in the U.S. are subject to some kind of conservatorship – representing about $50 billion in assets – but a previous report suggested the number of cases could be more than double that.

There’s virtually no data on how often conservators misuse their power or when a conservatorship has been improperly imposed.

The "Free Britney" movement has brought a lot of attention and publicity to the issue of conservatorship abuse, and will hopefully lead to reforms. 

See Naomi Cahn, Why conservatorships like the one controlling Britney Spears can lead to abuse, The Conversation, July 19, 2021. 

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2021/07/why-conservatorships-like-the-one-controlling-britney-spears-can-lead-to-abuse.html

Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink

Comments

Post a comment