Britney Spears Conservatorship: Fighting Conservatorship Abuse
Recent publicity about the Britney Spears conservatorship case focuses attention on how an individual subject to a conservatorship court order can assert claims of abuse in the proceedings. Although the Spears proceedings arose under California law, there are similarities to fighting conservatorship abuse under Michigan law.
Summary of Britney Spears Conservatorship
A California judge appointed Jamie Spears, Britney’s father, as conservator of her estate in 2008. The court has modified the conservatorship order over the years. It finally ended on November 12, 2021, almost 14 years later. Although the proceedings and court record are not public, news accounts and social media posts (including some by Britney herself) provide details about the conservatorship. The summary that follows reflects those accounts.
Establishment of the Conservatorship
Britney Spears experienced a mental health crisis that led to the court appointing her father as her conservator in 2008, when she was 26 years old. Initially, the appointment was temporary. Changes in the order gradually extended it over the years. The court gave the conservator control over Britney’s finances and her personal life, as permitted under California law.
During most of the conservatorship, Britney did not make public comments about it. She continued her professional endeavors, including a Las Vegas residency, three music albums, and many television appearances. She is now 39 years old and turns 40 years of age in December 2021. Her net worth reportedly totals over $60 million at present.
According to some reports, Britney grew dissatisfied with the conservator’s control over her finances and personal life as early as 2016. In 2020, Britney petitioned the court through her court-appointed lawyer to remove her father as conservator. The judge did not remove her father but did appoint a co-conservator.
In July 2021, Britney asked the judge to replace her court-appointed attorney with a new lawyer. The judge granted the request. Her new attorney then began aggressively pursuing Britney’s rights.
Allegations of Conservatorship Abuse
In June and July 2021, Britney appeared before the court to testify regarding the conservatorship. She stated that the restrictions were abusive and too extreme, particularly regarding her personal life. She also made statements concerning the financial aspects of the conservator’s conduct. Her testimony to the court may constitute conservatorship abuse, which involves imposition of excessive personal restrictions or financial exploitation.
In mid-September 2021, Britney’s lawyer filed a request to end the conservatorship immediately. The petition included a request to appoint a temporary conservator to oversee a plan to end the conservatorship. On September 29, 2021, the judge suspended her father as conservator and appointed the temporary conservator.
On November 1, 2021, Jamie Spears (who got a new lawyer after being ousted as conservator) filed documents with the court requesting an end to the conservatorship. The report of the petition came just a week after Britney’s lawyer requested to take a formal sworn deposition of Jamie Spears and requested copies of documents spanning the 13-plus years of the conservatorship. That request followed an August request from Britney’s attorney for other documents in the case.
In some circumstances, conservator abuse or misconduct may also lead to criminal charges or civil financial liability. Britney’s lawyer has raised the possibility of further liability for Jaime Spears, stating publicly that he continues to investigate the details of the conservatorship and the conservator’s conduct.
After a hearing on November 12, 2021 (which, like all the other proceedings, was not public), the judge dissolved the court order, granting Britney’s request to terminate it without further mental evaluations. The judge stated that the conservatorship of Britney’s person and estate was no longer required.
In a public statement, Britney’s attorney stated that there is a safety net in place for her personal life and financial estate, and that she is now an independent woman who can now make her own decisions. The legal proceedings between Britney and her father over his conduct during the conservatorship will continue, despite dissolution of the court order.
California law governed the Spears conservatorship proceedings, since that is Britney’s state of residence. Her allegations of conservatorship abuse and her efforts to end the conservatorship followed the California statutory process, under which a person subject to a conservatorship may petition the court for modification or termination of the court order. Britney’s lawyer utilized the process to urge the court to end her father’s control of her finances and personal life and to end the conservatorship completely. Those efforts were ultimately successful.
Each state adopts its own laws governing these types of cases. Although the proceedings sometimes even have different names, they are generally similar under the various state laws. The process for addressing conservatorship abuse usually involves petitioning the court to make changes in the court order or end it altogether, as it did in the Spears case.
BRMM Media Coverage of the Case
Our skilled attorneys at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras are a trusted source for news outlets when celebrity estates are highlighted by national media. We provided expert analysis on the Britney Spears case to a number of outlets, including:
Michigan Conservatorship and Guardianship Laws
While California conservatorship law provides that a court order may give a conservator control over aspects of both the financial affairs and personal life of an individual, Michigan law is somewhat different. A Michigan conservatorship proceeding relates to appointment of a conservator to handle the financial affairs of an individual who can no longer manage their own financial matters. A Michigan guardianship proceeding involves appointment of a guardian to handle matters relating to the personal care and well-being of an individual who can no longer handle those responsibilities for themselves.
The Michigan statutes governing conservatorships and guardianships impose significant legal duties on a conservator and a guardian. They also give the individual subject to a conservatorship or guardianship substantial rights, including the right to representation by legal counsel.
If a conservator or guardian violates any of their legal duties, the protected individual may petition the court through their attorney for appropriate relief. In this way, the Michigan process is similar to the way the proceedings unfolded in the Britney Spears case when she became dissatisfied with her conservator’s conduct.
Conservatorship or guardianship abuse, which may involve financial exploitation or unduly excessive personal restrictions, is a very serious matter. In Michigan, a petition to modify or terminate a court order for conservatorship or guardianship due to abuse may be filed with the probate court by the protected individual (through their counsel) or by any interested person.
If you or a loved one are in a situation that may involve conservatorship or guardianship abuse, your best strategy is to contact a lawyer who understands these proceedings and handles probate litigation in Michigan. Fighting guardianship or conservatorship abuse is not a matter that anyone should undertake without help from a knowledgeable lawyer.
Talk With Our BRMM Michigan Conservatorship and Guardianship Attorneys
If you need assistance with a situation that involves a Michigan conservatorship or guardianship, our experienced probate litigation lawyers and elder law attorneys at BRMM are here to help. Our substantial experience positions us extremely well to help clients who encounter any issue involving conservatorship and guardianship laws and procedures.At BRMM, we’ve been providing legal services to clients for more than 40 years. Our compassion, credentials, and commitment set us apart. We serve clients in Troy, Oakland County, and surrounding areas, as well as out-of-state clients with estate and probate matters arising in Michigan. Call us at 248-641-7070 to talk with us.