Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, October 7, 2021

What’s next in Britney Spears’ conservatorship after her father is suspended? Legal experts weigh in

SpearsWhat's next for Britney Spears? Well, legal experts say that Spears could still be asked for a mental evaluation to fully determine if termination of her conservatorship is granted.

Last Wednesday, a judge ruled to suspend Jamie P. Spears from overseeing the conservatorship that has "held a firm grip on [Britney's] life for over a dozen years." 

Britney Spears's attorney, Mathew Rosengart—in a not so shy way—told the court that Jamie should have been removed as conservator of Britney's estate long ago. Rosengart stated that Spears "wants, needs, and deserves an orderly transition" and argued that Spears "has been abused by this man for the last decade and since her childhood." 

According to David Glass, a certified family law attorney with a Ph.D in clinical psychology, told Fox News that the next step is for the judge presiding over the case to rule on whether the entire conservatorship will end completely. 

Glass stated, "[t]he heat had been turned up and the court felt compelled to suspend Jamie since its hands were tied. . .All of the documentary info, all of the claims by Britney herself, added up to it not being in Britney's interest to have her father involved—without any finding that Jamie did anything wrong." 

Glass also asserted that the court should still ask for a mental health evaluation, when the next hearing comes up around November 12. 

See Julius Young, What’s next in Britney Spears’ conservatorship after her father is suspended? Legal experts weigh in, Fox News, September 29, 2021. 

October 7, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Britney Spears Is Released From Her Father’s Oversight

SpearsJudge Brenda Penny has granted the request of Britney Spears' attorney, Mathew S. Rosengart, to remove Jamie Spears as conservator. The Judge's decision marks the first time since 2008 that Britney Spears will be without her father's oversight. 

According to Rosengart, Britney had been pleading for Jamie Spears' removal and stated, "[t]his man does not belong in her life, your honor, for another day. . .Please hear the plea of my client." 

After hearing both sides, Judge Penny agreed that suspending Jamie Spears was in the best interest of Britney Spears. Judge Penny stated, "[t]he current situation is not tenable." 

The decision by Judge Penny brought a significant ending to what has been a chaotic summer—in which Britney Spears broke her public silence at a hearing in June to plead her case and speak her truth. 

Although an attorney for Jamie Spears, Vivian Lee Thoreen, argued to end the conservatorship right away instead of suspend Mr. Spears, Rosengart asked the Judge to wait so that he could further investigate Mr. Spears's conduct. 

Rosengart asked for a termination hearing to be set for 30 to 45 days so that Ms. Spears could have an orderly transition. The next hearing is set for November 12. 

See Joe Coscarelli, Julia Jacobs, & Liz Day, Britney Spears Is Released From Her Father’s Oversight, The New York Times, September 29, 2021. 

September 30, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 10, 2021

Britney Spears’s father files to end her 13-year conservatorship

Free BritneyBritney Spears's father, Jamie Spears, filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court to end the conservatorship controlling his daughter's life and finances. 

The petition was filed on Tuesday, nearly a month after Jamie Spears agreed to vacate his role as the pop star's conservator. Jamie Spears has served as conservator of the pop star's estate for 13 years. 

Britney Spears's conservatorship was established in 2008 "as she publicly struggled with her mental health in the face of intense, unrelenting scrutiny from the news media and paparazzi."

The petition will not go into effect unless Judge Brenda Penny approves. The next hearing was set for September 29, in which Penny was set to hear a petition from Britney Spears's counsel, Mathew Rosengart, in which he would have advocated to remove Jamie Spears as conservator. 

Rosengart stated that the petition "represents a massive legal victory for Britney Spears, as well as vindication. 

See Sonia Rao, Britney Spears’s father files to end her 13-year conservatorship, The Washington Post, September 8, 2021. 

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

September 10, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Britney Spears' father accused of trying to get $2 million before stepping down as conservator

SpearsBritney Spears' attorney has urged the pop star's father, Jamie Spears, to immediately step down as her conservator "after accusing him of trying to get about $2 million as a condition of his resignation." 

Spears' attorney, Mathew Rosengart, has demanded that Jamie Spears step down without payment. Rosengart cited to Jamie Spears' August 12 response to a petition to remove him from her conservatorship in which Jamie Spears stated that he would be "willing to step down when the time is right, but the transition needs to be orderly and include a resolution of matters." 

According to Rosengart, "Mr. Spears and his counsel are now on notice: the status quo is no longer tolerable, and Britney Spears will not be extorted. . .Mr. Spears's blatant attempt to barter suspension and removal in exchange for approximately $2 million in payments on top of the millions already reaped from Ms. Spears's estate by Mr. Spears and his associate, is a non-starter."

See Wilson Wong & Diana Dasrath,  Britney Spears' father accused of trying to get $2 million before stepping down as conservator, NBC News, September 1, 2021. 

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

September 7, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 16, 2021

Trailblazing 'Star Trek' Actress Nichelle Nichols At The Center Of Conservatorship Battle

NicholsStar Trek actress Nichelle Nichols has found herself in a situation strikingly similar to Britney Spears. Nichols is currently in a conservatorship struggle that involves her only child, Kyle Johnson, her former manager Gilbert Bell, and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette—who Nichols named as her successor). 

Nichelle Nichols is known for breaking the color barrier in television in the 1960s with her role as Lt. Nyota Uhura in Star Trek. 

Similar to Britney Spears, Nichols' conservatorship battle is "raising public consciousness about conservatorships." Nichols' former agent and her concerned friend have taken steps to intervene because they feel that "Nichols is being denied the opportunity to live a life free of unwarranted restrictions." 

A specific catalyst for the conservatorship struggle is Nichols' dementia. Nichols' son, Kyle Johnson, claims that his mother could be "exploited due to her mental instability" and sought a petition for her conservatorship three years ago. 

In August of 2018, Fawcette filed an objection to Johnson's petition in which she argued that Nichols was still of sound mind and body and was capable of managing both her personal and financial affairs with some limited assistance. 

Fawcette also alleged that Johnson is simply using the conservatorship to take advantage of his mother by abusing his role to access Nichols' income and personal possessions. 

In 2019, Johnson was appointed conservator of his mother's estate, which Bell quickly opposed. 

The conservatorship battle continues, while Nichols' condition is unclear—at least to the public. 

See Okla Jones, Trailblazing 'Star Trek' Actress Nichelle Nichols At The Center Of Conservatorship Battle, Essence, August 16, 2021. 

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

August 16, 2021 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Britney Spears’s Father to Exit Conservatorship

Estate planningAccording to court documents, James Spears plans to transfer control of Britney Spears' finances to a new conservator.

The court documents, which were filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday, come after a long battle between the pop star and her father who has governed the pop star's "personal life and roughly $60 million estate for the last 13 years."

James Spears' decision to step comes weeks after Britney Spears' asked a judge to remove her father as the conservator after characterizing the estate as "abusive."

Britney Spears was also recently allowed to hire a new lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, who has pushed "aggressively" to remove or suspend James Spears as conservator of the estate. Although Mr. Rosengart conceded that "there are no actual grounds for suspending or removing [Mr. Spears], he does not believe a public battle with his daughter over his continuing services as her conservator would be in her best interest." 

Mr. Spears said that he would work with the court and Mr. Rosengart to "prepare for an orderly transition to a new conservator." Mr. Rosengart stated that Mr. Spears decision to step down is "vindication for Britney." 

See Neil Shah, Britney Spears’s Father to Exit Conservatorship, The Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2021. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 12, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Britney Spears' new lawyer files to remove father's control

SpearsBritney Spears' new attorney, Mathew Rosengart, petitioned to remove her father from the conservatorship that has "controlled her life and money for 13 years and replace him with a professional accountant." 

In documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Rosengart said that the current legal arrangement "has grown increasingly toxic and is simply no longer tenable." Rosengart proposed that Jamie Spears be replaced with CPA Jason Rubin as conservator of Spears' estate. Documents state that Spears' estate includes $2.7 million in cash and more than $57 million in assets. 

Rosengart stated that he first priority is removing Jamie Spears as conservator of the estate, which he stays is "the most pressing issue facing Ms. Spears." 

Rosengart added, "[a]ny father who genuinely loves his daughter and has her best interests at heart should willingly step aside in favor of the highly respected professional fiduciary nominated here.”

Lynne Spears, Britney's mother and Jamie's ex-wife said that Jamie's "microscopic control" over her health care and business decisions was especially damaging. 

Since Judge Brenda Penny granted Britney Spears permission to hire an attorney of her choice, the ball has begun rolling, and it appears Britney Spears may have more hope at ending the conservatorship. 

See Andrew Dalton, Britney Spears' new lawyer files to remove father's control, ABC News, July 26, 2021. 

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

July 28, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

July 25, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Britney Spears’ Sad Song … Warning: This Could Happen to You

SpearsUnfortunately, being forced into a conservatorship is not something that just happens to people in movies and stars like Britney Spears. 

As the world is becoming more and more aware of Britney Spears' "terrible, heartbreaking conservatorship," many are starting to wonder how that could happen to a successful and wealthy person like Britney Spears. These same people are also beginning to wonder if that same thing could happen to them. 

Sadly, the answer is yes, normal people like you and me could find ourselves in the same situation. The conversation around this topic continues to grow due to Britney's recent court battle and with the Netflix movie I Care a Lot. "As in Britney's case, a judge can literally take charge of all your personal and financial decisions and appoint a third party to make these many decisions on an unlimited basis." 

One of the worst aspects of court proceedings involving conservatorships, is that the proceedings are public information, which can add to the emotional toll. 

It is important to be aware that conservatorship can happen to anyone, "if and when you're too disabled (due to an accident or illness) or too incompetent (due to infirmity of mind, old age or dementia, or a similar condition) to handle your own affairs." 

See John M. Goralka, Britney Spears’ Sad Song … Warning: This Could Happen to You, Kiplinger, July 14, 2021. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 17, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 16, 2021

Lawyer: 'Writing is on the wall' that Britney Spears' conservatorship will end

SpearsAfter a heartbreaking loss last week, Britney Spears finally got a big win in her conservatorship battle after Judge Brenda Penny ruled that Spears can now hire the attorney of her choosing. 

On Wednesday, the singer appeared over the phone for the second time in two years following last month's headline-making hearing in which the 39-year-old pop icon claimed she's been 'traumatized' by an 'abusive' legal arrangement that grants her father, Jamie Spears, broad authority over her personal and financial affairs, including her estate that's estimated to be worth $60 million. 

A prominent Hollywood lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, was formally approved to represent Britney Spears. Rosengart client list includes "A-listers from Ben Affleck to Steven Spielberg." Rosengart is expected to take an aggressive approach, in which he plans on filing paperwork to formally end the conservatorship. 

According to Benny Roshan, an L.A. based attorney, 

Britney basically illustrated through her own testimony to the court that she had the capacity to hire a lawyer...and when you're under a conservatorship, typically that means that a court has found you not capable to enter into a contract — but hiring a lawyer is just that.

The next major moment in Spears' case come when she and her legal team file the formal petition to end the conservatorship. 

See Alexandra Canal, Lawyer: 'Writing is on the wall' that Britney Spears' conservatorship will end, Yahoo July 16, 2021. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 16, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)