I am sure many of you have recently seen or heard that popular pop singer Britney Spears is under “conservatorship” and that she needs to be “freed.” I thought I would take a minute to explain what a conservatorship is and why references to freedom are being made.
Conservatorship is a legal protective arrangement specific to each state’s laws. In Britney’s case, California law applies. In California, the term “conservatorship” is used with distinctions on “over the person” or “over the estate.” In Arizona, “guardianship” is akin to California’s conservatorship over the person, and “conservatorship” is the same as California’s conservatorship over the estate.
In Britney’s case, it seems unusual that a seemingly healthy and high-functioning 39-year-old with an estate worth approximately $60 million dollars is under a conservatorship. However, in 2007, Britney had a public breakdown that led to her conservatorship. The conservatorship has given Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, control over her estate, career, and other aspects of her personal life, including medical treatment, for about the last 12 years. In November, the court declined to remove Jamie, but added Bessemer Trust as a co-conservator and corporate fiduciary. Then, last week Jamie lost his bid to retain the power to delegate investment powers for the estate. There is another hearing scheduled in March.
Since a person under guardianship and conservatorship does not have the same legal authority to make decisions over his/her own life, restrictions on freedom are par for the course. Typically, the person under guardianship/conservatorship may seek termination if the arrangement is no longer appropriate. There may be reasons why Britney has not successfully sought termination, and/or limitation of the guardian’s/conservator’s authority. There will likely be more twists in the protracted court struggle over the singer’s finances and guardianship, particularly amid new public scrutiny following the release of Framing Britney Spears, a New York Times-produced documentary.
In Arizona, there are many different arrangements that can be considered in guardianship and conservatorship cases. Each situation needs to be individually addressed to serve the best interests of the person in need of protection with the least restrictive means possible. More typical scenarios involve the elderly or individuals with significant developmental disabilities or catastrophic injuries, but as the Britney Spears case demonstrates; every situation is unique.
At Bivens & Associates, PLLC we have over 40 years of combined experience in handling guardianships and conservatorships, and have represented family members, licensed fiduciaries and those who are the subject of guardianships/conservatorship. We have a unique approach and mindset on how to successfully assist those who serve as Guardian and Conservator and those who may benefit from these arrangements. Contact us today to discuss your specific situation.
– Letty Segovia, Esq.