The #FreeBritney movement is producing one of the top trending hash tags based on Britney Spears’ controversial Conservatorship case. In 2008, a California Court decided Britney was not right and suspended her ability to make her own decisions about her affairs. It gave authority to another adult, her dad, to control her affairs. Britney, an international pop-princess born in Louisiana, has been subject to this court order, called a Conservatorship, ever since. Is there anything valuable to know about this recent news? Is this a law that only applies to celebrities? Could this happen to you? Is it permanent?
What is a Conservatorship?
First, let’s define the terms and concept: A Conservatorship (a term used by courts outside of Louisiana) is created when “a guardian or a protector is appointed by a judge to manage the financial affairs and/or daily life of another due to physical or mental limitations, or old age.” A person subject to a Conservatorship is a “Conservatee.” Thinking of it as an adult guardianship would be accurate. Conservatorship in Louisiana is called Interdiction; the person subject to a Judgment of Interdiction is an Interdict. The person appointed by a court to be the adult guardian is a Curator.
A Louisiana court must be convinced that it’s appropriate to interdict any adult, celebrity or not, suffering from a condition, which is sufficiently debilitating. Our law requires a person to overcome a high burden before another is interdicted. It would not be granted on a whim! Credible, detailed, and reliable medical evidence is necessary. Not only that, but other less intrusive options must not be reasonably available for the adult in those circumstances. It is a complex legal process and should be pursued only necessary circumstances.
Interdiction may be appropriate when the proposed Interdict should not make decisions for herself, at least at that period in time. Yes, what is imposed can be lifted, if evidence warrants it. A judgment of interdiction suspends all or some of that interdict’s rights as a citizen– to vote, sign contracts or other legal documents (can’t buy a car, open a bank account, use a credit card . . . ), consent to medical treatment, procedures, etc. As an attorney who focuses in the areas of estates, probate, and property, when my clients have pursued interdiction, I know how far reaching and heavy such a request could be.
How broad in scope is an Interdiction? Which rights and freedoms are suspended by court judgment depends on the evidence. For example, is the proposed Interdict suffering from late stages of dementia? If so, the proposed Interdict may not protect their own finances, pay bills accurately, or escape being a victim of a scam. So, perhaps a full Interdiction- the suspension of all rights and freedoms- is warranted. But perhaps a twenty-year-old coping with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheel chair may only need a limited Interdiction- protection from making only big medical or financial decisions on his own but freedoms like voting, dating, or going to school could remain viable. In Britney’s case, what led to her Conservatorship being granted? The stress of stardom? Drugs? Biology? I don’t know. But each case must be analyzed separately and critically.
Conservatorship & Britney Spears
Ok, some details about Britney’s case. Britney got her start on The Mickey Mouse Club and her popularity in pop music quickly skyrocketed. Some claim Britney “went off the deep end,” referring to events that led to the Conservatorship; the California judge granted her father, Jamie Spears, temporary Conservatorship in 2008 following her involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital. #FreeBrittney.
The New York Times investigated the merits of Britney’s Conservatorship and this led to: Framing Britney Spears. Part of a Hulu documentary series, this 60 minute glimpse into Britney’s young rise to stardom, the Conservatorship and what many #FreeBritney fans believe led to it. It suggests she’s a prisoner in her own home and she wants to change the 13 year-long-Conservatorship and regain more control over her affairs.
As Conservator (Curator), Jamie Spears has control over Britney’s finances, financial decisions and ultimately her career. In the past 13 years, under Jamie’s Conservatorship, Britney has had one of the most successful Vegas residencies in history and released multiple albums. #FreeBritney supporters believe this is Jamie’s motivation for opposing an end to the Conservatorship. In November of 2020, she announced that she will refuse to perform while her father is still in charge of her and her career. How has a Conservatee (Interdict) been able to accomplish such amazing feats, while maintaining her health, relationships with her sons and family, and her boyfriend? Britney’s attorney, Samuel D. Ingham, III, calls Britney a “high functioning Conservatee” while advocating an end to Britney’s Conservatorship, or at the very least removing her father as Conservator (Curator).
Jamie claims that every dollar in the Conservatorship has to be accounted for, so there is no way he could steal money from Britney’s hard earned fortune. However, as Conservator, Jamie received an annual salary of $130,000, plus office rental and expense reimbursement. He also received 1.5% of all ticket sales and merchandise pertaining to Britney’s Las Vegas residencies. Ticket sales alone reached $138,000,000 over a 4-year residency, so the #FreeBritney movement may not be far off when they claim Jamie may be financially motivated to remain in control.
Britney received a small win in court in February of this year, when the CA Judge allowed a private financial institution to be appointed co-Conservator (which means Jamie must work with another). Britney’s legal team had hoped to have Bessemer Trust appointed sole Conservator. A hearing later this month will hopefully bring more good news to the pop star and her faithful fans.
While Britney’s Conservatorship case and the #FreeBritney movement are probably the most public Conservatorship of this generation, there have been other cases involving celebrities. In 2016 Kanye West was believed to need a Conservator after being placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold. Another childhood sweetheart, Amanda Bynes, has been under a Conservatorship since 2014. In 2018, her Conservatorship was extended for another two years. Amanda has since taken her mother to court to end her Conservatorship.
Let On Point Legal Help
With the aging of our population, is it right to assume that more people now, celebrities or us regular folk, will warrant Interdiction? A 2013 AARP survey alleges that more than 1.5 million people are under some Conservatorship in the United States. On the one hand, aging affects our cognitive abilities and often, certain maladies (dementia) or injuries caused by a weaker body, become more prevalent after middle age. But most of us are living longer and better given our greater collective focus on health and preventive care. Not only that, many older citizens have smartly realized that it’s better to complete basic estate planning documents while they still have mental capacity before they could lose it. These competing elements may, to some extent, cancel each other.
On Point Legal wishes only the best for Britney as we do all families whose may have a member who could become a candidate for Interdiction. Interdiction sometimes is unavoidable. But thinking ahead usually gives most good options and might avoid a stressful and expensive Interdiction process. If Interdiction is necessary, there are clear steps to follow and I know how to navigate it and guide the family through it. But wouldn’t it be better to avoid it altogether? It’s not just hype; it’s very possible!
Contact the team at ON POINT LEGAL today and talk to us about your concerns for someone in your life; talk to us about the easy and simple options available. We will enjoy meeting you and getting a chance offer real-life solutions for families! And meanwhile, #FreeBritney.