Britney Spears started her career with the Mickey Mouse Club at the tender age of eight. Later, when she was in her twenties, she was reported as having a bit of an emotional melt-down and ended up spending some time in an institution.
At that time, given that she couldn’t care for herself and her children, a court-appointed her father, James Spears, to the role of “conservator.” This gave him complete control over Britney’s finances, health care, and negotiation of business deals. A conservatorship is a legal arrangement for situations like Ms. Spears’s, or for those who are underage or are experiencing age-related disabilities.
At first the Spears conservatorship was temporary, but it was extended year after year, despite that Ms. Spears continued to appear as an entertainer over many of those years. The Spears family began to show some stress in the arrangement, however, and now Ms. Spears is seeking to have the conservatorship terminated. Her struggles have become even more public with the release of a documentary film that has sparked widespread indignation about her situation.
The latest development, after a hearing in court on Thursday, February 11, 2021, is that the judge declined to permit Mr. Spears sole authority to invest Britney’s money, so he continues to share that authority equally with a professional co-conservator.
What does this have to do with us ordinary folk? It is an object lesson on why it is so crucial to prepare an estate plan in advance if you should ever become unable to manage your own affairs. That way you keep your own choice of whom you would want to care for you. Otherwise, without an estate plan, you would very likely end up in court. As you can see from Britney’s case, the loss of control can be devastating and conservatorships can be difficult to get out of, once you no longer need them.
You might not have had a decades-long show business career from which to recover, but accidents and severe illness can happen to any of us. Stay out of court and keep your independence to the extent that you choose a person whom you trust to take over if you can’t manage. We would be happy to help you make sure you have the proper documents in place to avoid ever having someone take over for you when it isn’t appropriate to do so. If you have questions or would like to discuss a personal legal matter, don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our office at (718) 875-2191.