Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Britney Spears' father loses his attempt to keep sole control of her investments as documentary stokes fans 'free Britney' campaign

FreebritBritney Spears' father, Jamie Spears, has come up empty in his attempt to keep sole control of her investments. "A California judge denied Jamie Spears' objections to establishing wealth management company Bessemer Trust Co as a co-conservator over her estate." Jamie has had control over Britney's finances since 2008. The conservatorship came after Britney had a number of public breakdowns, which included shaving her head and attacking paparazzi with an umbrella. 

Although the fight over conservatorship has been going on for a while, even inciting a movement coined the "Free Britney Movement," a new documentary has made the discussion relevant all over again. The documentary, 'Framing Britney Spears,' released last week. The documentary sheds light on Britney's mental health issues and "her struggle to regain autonomy in her career." 

The #FreeBritney movement has brought on a slew of sympathy and support for Britney. This support ranges from your average Joe and average Jane fans to celebrities like Miley Cyrus. 

Britney recently posted a video of one of her previous performances with the following caption on Twitter and Instagram, "I´ll always love being on stage .... But I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person ..... I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life !!!!"

See Megan Sheets, Britney Spears' father loses his attempt to keep sole control of her investments as documentary stokes fans 'free Britney' campaign, Daily Mail (U.K.), February 11, 2021. 

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 17, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Britney Spears’ father Jamie and Bessemer Trust Co. to continue co-conservatorship, judge says

SpearsA judge has ruled to keep Bessemer Trust Co. as a co-conservator over Britney Spears' estate. Further, Spears' father's objects to sharing conservatorship duties were thrown out. 

Britney Spears' attorney stated on Thursday that "he originally proposed the co-conservatorship between Bessemer and Jamie to give both parties 'an equal division of responsibility, in the hopes that they would sit down and figure out together the best way to handle this complex estate for the benefit of my client.'" He also added, "It’s no secret that my client does not want her father as co-conservator, but we recognize that removal is a separate issue." The attorney further recommended that Bessemer and Jamie Spears meet to discuss a budget and investment plan for Britney's estate. 

According to Vivian Lee Thoreen, Jamie's attorney, Britney asked for and agreed to her father's role early in the conservatorship. Thoreen stated, "Ms. Spears reflected in court papers that she wanted her father to be the sole conservator of her estate."

Britney Spears did not appear in the proceedings that took place last week. Additional hearings are expected to take place on March 17 and April 27.

See Nate Day,  Britney Spears’ father Jamie and Bessemer Trust Co. to continue co-conservatorship, judge says, Fox News, February 12, 2021.  

February 16, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 15, 2021

Article: Disinheritance, Discrimination and the Case for Including Adult Independent Children in Dependants’ Relief Schemes: Lawen Estate v Nova Scotia

Jane Thompson recently published an article entitled, Disinheritance, Discrimination and the Case for Including Adult Independent Children in Dependants’ Relief Schemes: Lawen Estate v Nova Scotia, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Estate planning

In 2019 a Superior Court in Nova Scotia struck out adult independent children as dependants under Nova Scotia's Testator's Family Maintenance Act. The decision was based on a finding that testamentary autonomy was a constitutional right protected by s.7 of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This paper demonstrates why the constitutional decision in Lawen Estate v. Nova Scotia was flawed. It also explains why including of adult independent children in dependants' relief schemes is not only benign in most instances, but may play a role in preventing the perpetuation of discrimination in the private law.

February 15, 2021 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Britney Spears Conservatorship Case Heads Back to Court

SpearsAs Britney Spears continues to fight to get her life back, fans and other onlookers are creating hype around the New York Times documentary "Framing Britney Spears." The documentary covers the #FreeBritney movement spurred by the conflict over Britney Spears' conservatorship. The conservatorship arrangement has left her father in charge to manage her career, personal life and finance since 2008. 

The documentary includes footage of Spears when she was just a young and gifted performer, who was often used and taken advantage of for political gain. Spears was often terrorized by paparazzi and evil celebrity culture. 

Since the documentary has been released, celebrities are beginning to join the movement, which was mostly made up of activists and superfans at its origin. 

Spears tweeted earlier this week,

“I’ll always love being on stage …. but I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person ….. I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life!!!!”

“Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life,” she wrote, “it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens.”

It is clear that Britney wants her father out as her conservator. According to her lawyer, Spears is afraid of her father Jamie and wanted her temporary personal conservator, Jodi Montgomery, to be made permanent. 

See Julia Jacobs, Britney Spears Conservatorship Case Heads Back to Court, N.Y. Times, February 9, 2021. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

February 11, 2021 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, New Cases, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Handling of Britney Spears

SpearsThe unusual court-approved conservatorship of Britney Spears which spurred the "Free Britney" movement continues to be the topic of conversation and has even brought a new documentary from the New York Times. The movement and the documentary are made up of fans of Britney Spears. 

Liz Day, a writer for the Times Insider, stated, "It appears to raise a contradiction: How can someone be seemingly able to function at a high level as a superstar performing sold-out shows in Las Vegas, while also being so unable to take care of herself and at risk that this layer of intense protection is needed?" Liz Day is also a senior editor for the new documentary and film which is titled, "Framing Britney Spears." 

Many fans and followers are asking themselves the same question, and many are irritated at the way Britney Spears has been treated during the last 13 years of the legal arrangement and the continued legal process. 

The film is not without controversy, as the film includes clips, interviews, and commercials of Britney Spears in the past, including those that occurred in her early rise to fame. 

It is not secret that Britney Spears was loved by many, but she was also hated and tortured by many. Much of this hatred was supported and encouraged by the mainstream media. 

According to Johanna Schiller, the archival producer, “Britney is so incredibly well documented and so much is out there that there was an overload of material,” Ms. Schiller said. “What was challenging was finding the choice moments in that ocean of stuff and trying to pinpoint material that hadn’t been out there so much before.”

According to Britney's lawyer, “Britney herself is vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret,” her lawyer wrote. “In this case, it is not an exaggeration to say that the whole world is watching.”

“The New York Times Presents” airs on FX on Friday at 10 p.m. and can be streamed on Hulu." 

See Lix Day, The Handling of Britney Spears, February 5, 2021. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  


February 9, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Britney Spears' father speaks out as she requests to remove him as conservator of her estate

SpearsBritney Spears' conservatorship battle continues as the legal proceedings continue to become more public. At the beginning, the legal proceedings were fairly private, but after a dramatic hearing last month, the topic caught the attention of the public's wandering eye. 

Apparently, Spears was afraid of her father, Jamie Spears, and accused him of making business decisions behind her back. "According to court documents obtained by CNN, Ingham said the pop star would not perform again as long as her father remains in control of her estimated $60 million estate." 

Jamie Spears has claimed that anything he has done has been to protect his daughter from "those with self-serving interests." Jamie Spears was court-appointed in 2008 after a series of personal issues came to light. Most of his decisions have been confined to health and medical decisions. 

In January of 2019, Britney Spears decided to take a break from work and entered into a 30-day voluntary residential treatment facility. 

After Jamie Spears began to experience some health issues of his own, Jodie Montgomery was appointed by the court to oversee the estate. In August of this year, Spears and her attorney filed to remove Jamie Spears as conservator. According to Jamie Spears, he was on good terms with his daughter until then. 

Ingham, Spears' attorney, claimed that Jamie Spears lacked transparency. However, Jamie Spears believes that Ingham is the reason he has not spoken to his daughter since August and many things are being exaggerated as Jamie says he only has his daughter's best interest in mind. 

Tensions continue to rise as litigation is pending. 

See Chloe Melas, Britney Spears' father speaks out as she requests to remove him as conservator of her estate, CNN Entertainment, December 15, 2020. 

December 17, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 30, 2020

Legal Considerations of Living Together in a Multi-Generational Home

HouseDue to COVID-19, many people have had to balance working remotely with caring for their children. That being said, many are using their homes as an office and a school, while also maintaining it as a home. 

The difficulty balancing, remote learning and homework, virtual meetings and work calls, and shopping, cooking and cleaning has created more housework. It is no surprise that wear and tear and stress levels have increased. 

Many are considering moving in with their parents or children are needing to consider the legal implications of doing so. When living with multiple generations, new considerations come into play. These considerations include,  "the burdens and the benefits of raising and teaching the children together, dividing the chores, maintaining the home, and pooling their finances together during this time of uncertainty."

Below are a  few initial questions that you should discuss with your family when considering living in a multigenerational home: 

  • Who is contributing to the purchase price?
  • Is it a gift, advance on inheritance, loan, or will they hold an ownership interest equal to their capital contribution? 
  • How do you equalize your estate to the remainder of your family?
  • What happens if a couple gets divorced?
  • Who has the right to reside in the home and how will the ownership be divided?
  • What happens if a parent must later reside in a nursing home for care?
  • Do they have sufficient assets in their name to pay for nursing care or will Medicaid look to his or her ownership interest in the home for payment?
  • If one of the owners dies, who receives his or her interest in the home?

With all of the uncertainty surrounding us, these questions are very important, and the answers even moreso. 

See Rebecca MacGregor, Legal Considerations of Living Together in a Multi-Generational Home, Bowditch & Dewey, Estate, Financial & Tax Planning Group, October 13, 2020. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 30, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Guardianship, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 26, 2020

Britney Spears' conservatorship keeps her from marrying, having a baby, makeup artist says

BritWhat has become a quite popular topic in the tabloids, is Britney Spears' conservatorship and the lack of control Spears appears to have due to said conservatorship. 

Following her public meltdown over a decade ago, Britney Spears has been under a legal guardianship, in which her father Jamie has been in charge of her finances and everyday life. 

Spears' makeup artist, Maxi, stated that it is quite possible that Spears would have married an even had children with her boyfriend Sam Asghari if not for the conservatorship forbidding her from doing so.

Maxi stated, "I can tell you what they’re still controlling to this day is whether she has a baby or not, whether she gets married or not, who her friends are, and those are some big things.” Maxi also added, "We're talking about some 'Handmaid's Tale'-type things to keep her from having a baby. Like we're talking... I can't detail and I'm not gonna specifically say, but I will say for sure, she would've had a baby by now. She would've probably been married to Sam by now. She would have groups of friends around her." 

Spears has made it quite clear that she is not in favor of her father being her conservator as she has filed court documents fighting the conservatorship.

One thing that fans of Britney Spears have noticed is that she has gained more control over her social media, which she has used to post a couple of questionable videos of her dancing.

October 26, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 14, 2020

Britney Spears shows love for #FreeBritney in court filing

BsBritney Spears filed an objection to a motion from her father to seal a recent filing in the case regarding her conservatorship. Spears claims that the public should know what is happening to her. Spears outwardly showed her support for the #FreeBritney movement driven by her fans, which her father has shown a clear distaste for. 

“Britney’s conservatorship has attracted an unprecedented level of scrutiny from mainstream media and social media alike,” the filing says. “Far from being a conspiracy theory or a ‘joke’ as James reportedly told the media, in large part this scrutiny is a reasonable and even predictable result of James’ aggressive use of the sealing procedure over the years to minimize the amount of meaningful information made available to the public.”

Britney Spears father, James Spears, along with he conservatorship's attorneys have consistently fought to have the courtrooms closed and the filings sealed. These efforts have been mostly successful in the past. 

The arguments in favor of keeping the filings sealed is to protect Spears' children and trade secrets. However, Spears argues that these things are not revealed in most of the filings in the case. 

According to recent filings, Britney Spears' assets totaled around $50 million at the start of 2020.

The most recent motion includes a "shout-out to the fans in the #FreeBritney movement . . ." 

“At this point in her life when she is trying to regain some measure of personal autonomy,” the filing says, “Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans.”

See Andrew Dalton, Britney Spears shows love for #FreeBritney in court filing, AP News, September 3, 2020. 

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.  

September 14, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Carol Burnett seeks to be guardian of teen grandson

CarolThe 87-year-old comedy legend Carol Burnett and her husband, Brian Miller, are seeking to become legal guardians of Carol's teen grandson. Carol's daughter, Erin, struggles with substance abuse.

Carol stated, “Due to addiction issues and other circumstances that my daughter, Erin Hamilton, has been struggling with impacting her immediate family dynamic, my husband and I have petitioned the court to be appointed legal guardian of my 14-year-old grandson,” 

"Hamilton, a singer, is the youngest of Burnett’s three children, all of them daughters with Burnett’s second husband, TV producer Joe Hamilton."

Carrie Hamilton, another of Burnett's daughters, spoke publicly about her struggles with addiction and her road to her eventual sobriety before her death of cancer in 2002. Carrie Hamilton was 38 when she passed away. 

Burnett and Miller have filed documents in Los Angeles Superior Court to take custody of Dylan, Erin Hamilton's son.

See Carol Burnett seeks to be guardian of teen grandson, AP News, August 20, 2020.

September 1, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Guardianship, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)