All across the internet and even in front of California courthouses, people have been fighting to #FreeBritney. The movement to support Britney Spears as she fights to remove a conservatorship held against her goes back a few years. But the story recently gained more notoriety as Spears addressed the court on June 23, 2021, and made startling statements about the strict restrictions held against her.
In the statement, Spears revealed that she has been forced to stay on birth control and take lithium against her will, among other allegations of the trauma she experienced due to the conservatorship.
The topic of conservatorship has also been in the national conversation as a popular Netflix movie, “I Care a Lot” also addressed the dangers and ugly side of a conservatorship — something that is supposed to provide security but can be used in troubling ways.
The Netflix movie “I Care a Lot” is a fictional account. The Britney Spears story is a true story.
What do they both say about what could happen to ordinary people if faced with a conservatorship?
What Is a Conservatorship?
In California, a conservatorship is defined as a “court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances.”
In Florida, conservatorship has a different definition. It is used in cases where a person disappears, and it is unknown if the person is dead or alive. A conservator is assigned to manage the properties and assets of the absentee person.
If the Britney Spears case was in Florida, it would actually be considered a guardianship case.
What Is a Guardianship?
In Florida, adult guardianship is defined as “the process by which the court finds an individual’s ability to make decisions so impaired that the court gives the right to make decisions to another person.”
Whether it is a guardianship in Florida or a conservatorship in California, both perform the same purpose, and the people in charge are often referred to as “guardians.”
Related: 6 Signs You Need a New Attorney
What Can a Guardian Do?
A probate judge assigns a guardian to take legal responsibility for someone who has been deemed incapable of caring for themselves or their property on their own.
Most of these cases involve seniors who cannot manage their personal or financial affairs due to health issues. But, in some situations, such as Spears, a guardian may be assigned to younger people experiencing mental health or physical impairments.
Guardians come in two forms. They may be responsible for managing personal affairs, ensuring that daily needs such as housing, clothing, and meals are met. They may also be responsible for financial affairs, such as managing the conservatee’s money and bills.
What Happened to Britney?
In 2008, Britney Spears faced a very public mental health crisis. At that time, her father, Jaime Spears became her legal guardian to protect her and her financial assets. Under a court order, he took over control of Britney Spears’ personal and financial affairs. The order was supposed to be temporary but has been extended over time.
In 2019, Jaime Spears stepped down as a guardian of Britney Spears’ personal affairs, but maintained control over her finances. Jodi Montgomery, a care professional, took over as Britney Spears’ guardian over her personal affairs.
According to reports, Britney Spears began to oppose the conservatorship in 2016. She has tried to gain more control over her money and her life. But, she has been mostly unsuccessful.
In November 2020, a judge declined to remove Jaime Spears as her financial conservatorship and instead, named the financial firm, The Bessemer Trust as a co-conservator of her estate instead. A month later, the judge extended Jaime Spears’ conservatorship until September 2021.
What Happened in “I Care a Lot”?
The movie “I Care a Lot” tells the story of an older, wealthy, single woman who is surprised to find that her doctor has recommended that a guardian take over her personal and financial affairs.
The older woman is placed in a care facility where she is over medicated, deemed mentally unfit, and not allowed to communicate with her attorney or family members. Her guardian then moves forward with selling the woman’s assets and pocketing the profits.
While the story is fictional, it is said to be based on similar cases that have happened to real people. Stories similar to this do happen and show the ugly side of legal guardianship.
So, What Does This Mean For You?
It is fairly unlikely that people will find themselves in a similar situation as Britany Spears or the primary character in “I Care a Lot,” but it is worth understanding your rights.
Conservators are required to follow strict guidelines and provide comprehensive accounting reports. A conservatee can also request more judicial supervision if they feel their rights are being violated. Finally, a conservatee can also ask a judge to terminate conservatorships or replace their guardians.
Britney Spears is going through the process to have the restrictions of her conservatorship removed. We will have to wait and see what happens.
If you or someone you love are in a similar situation, it is key to find an attorney you can trust to represent your interests. A trusted attorney will always be the best way to maintain your rights and get a legal outcome that is fair and just.
If you have any legal questions related to family law, personal injury, or criminal defense, find an attorney you can trust. Talk to TJ Grimaldi to see how he can fight for you. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023.