What the Britney Conservatorship Means for You

We’re all talking about it, tweeting about it and googling it. Here’s what you need to know about the Britney Conservatorship, her recent statement to the court and what it means for you.


What’s a Conservatorship?

Conservatorships are probate proceedings that don’t deal with death. They deal with incapacity. Incapacity is when you are physically unable to make decisions for yourself or the court determines that you are not able to keep yourself from harm. In either case, the court removes your ability to make personal or financial choices.

The court removing your autonomy is almost the most invasive thing the government can do, besides jail or the death penalty. It’s necessary if someone is a harm to themselves. Sometimes the harm is because the person can’t act on their own behalf and they didn’t already put someone in place to act for them. The trouble is, the court has to remove your power to direct your life in order to put someone else in place. Also, if you don’t express who you think is trustworthy, the court has to guess.

Because it’s so invasive, although the state laws govern how the proceedings work, the person under the guardianship has a right to petition to have it removed and a right to be heard by the court.

Here’s how all of this is playing out in Britney’s case, the court determined in 2008 she was a harm to herself and also determined that she is unable to manage her finances. That’s been in place for thirteen years. In that time, she’s mounted a comeback through incredibly lucrative Las Vegas shows. For many years she has not asked the court to remove the conservatorship

That’s public knowledge. But there’s a lot that is not known. We don’t know, probably will not know and probably should never know her medical information.

Serious Allegations

Britney raised incredibly serious allegations in her June 23rd statement. It’s a normal and an expected function of a conservator of a person to make medical decisions. But an allegation of forced sterilization is another. Questions I would expect the court to dig into in the coming weeks is whether a pregnancy poses any specific medical risk to her or if she’s expressed a desire to have an IUD.

Another serious allegation is being forced to work during her Las Vegas residency. I would expect the court to take a close look at whether anyone in a position to enter into contract on her behalf is able to personally gain from them and whether performing – or the rate of performing – ultimately serves Britney’s interests.

What It Means for You

The Britney Conservatorship is unlike many celebrity probate court proceedings. Celebrity estate and incapacity issues – surprisingly – typically boil down to problems normal people run into all the time. This whole podcast season is all about celebrity estate problems that are incredibly common for normal people.

The Britany Conservatorship isn’t. This is an extraordinarily rare scenario. She’s an extraordinarily talented performer who has been in the spotlight for decades, bringing all of the scrutiny and let’s face it – leering – along with it. All of it starting at a very young age and a history of mental illness. Combine that with a high-earning talent that a lot of people can make a lot of money from and you get a recipe for load of legal issues that will rarely come up again.

Most people will not find themselves in the thirteen-year long conservatorship. Here’s what the Britney Conservatorship means for you. Once you turn eighteen, you have an incredibly precious thing, your autonomy.

You might not have a lot of assets, but having autonomy means that legal issues will come up if you aren’t able to help yourself. No one is automatically in a position to do anything for you. That means if you don’t plan ahead and become incapacitated, the only option at that point will be to ask a court to take away your autonomy

You need to plan ahead

However, if you do plan ahead, you can put the people you trust in place to deal with your finances and your medical decisions when you can’t. That means if you become incapacitated, there won’t be a need for anyone to ask a court to take away your ability to make those decisions. If you might be making decisions that could be harmful to you and a court does get involved, you’ve at least indicated who you trust. That’s really important if you have someone in your life that you don’t trust.

There’s a lot you should know about the Britney Conservatorship. The most important thing to know is that every adult needs an estate plan. It just looks different for every stage of life. If you don’t have a lot of assets, your legal documents might simply name the person you trust to make decisions for you, if you can’t. You should also think about how the assets you do have would transfer to the right people in the most efficient way when you die.

Are you a little overwhelmed by the idea of estate planning? Start by taking the Quiz to learn your barrier and get a free tool to help you get started.

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