Details about Britney Spears’ conservatorship are important to know when it comes to understanding the #FreeBritney movement that’s currently taking over social media. You may have seen the hashtag making a comeback on Instagram and Twitter, where thousands of supporters are sharing theories about what they believe to be are coded messages and cries for help from the pop star.
Now, this wouldn’t be the first time that fans of the “Toxic” singer have rallied together in support of Britney’s freedom. But the movement seems to be kicking things up a notch because, for the first time in over a decade, Britney Spears’ conservatorship might finally be changing. Interest sparked up again in February 201 when The New York Times released their documentary, Framing Britney Spears, on Hulu. The film followed the history of Britney Spears’ conservatorship and the controversy around her dad, Jamie Spears.
While Framing Britney Spears covered a lot about the Grammy winner’s conservatorship, what the documentary didn’t dive into is Britney’s younger sister Jamie Lynn Spears and her role in her sister’s financial situation. In August 2020, Jamie Lynn, was named as the trustee of her estate by their father and Britney’s co-conservator, Andrew Wallet. As the trustee of her estate, Jamie Lynn would inherit Britney’s fortune if she dies. The move was met with controversy, as fans believe the trustees should be Britney’s sons, Sean Preston and Jayden James. According to The Blast, Britney even set up the trust “to protect her vast fortune and provide for her children’s financial future.”
But that’s only one part of Britney’s complicated financial situation. In order to really understand the #FreeBritney movement, let’s first dive into everything you need to know about Britney Spears’ conservatorship. From what it entails—to who it involves—we’re breaking it all down below.
When did Britney Spears’ conservatorship start?
Let’s just say that 2007 was not Britney’s year. At the time, the pop star’s relationship with the paparazzi became increasingly tense amid her very-public divorce from husband Kevin Federline and the death of her aunt, Sandra Bridges Covington, in January of that year. Britney was reportedly very close to her aunt, and shortly after her death, the pop star checked herself into a drug rehabilitation center for less than a day before going on to shave her head.
By July 2007, Federline and Britney reached a global settlement and agreed to share joint custody of their two children—Sean Federline and Jayden Federline. Throughout their split, Britney was also balancing a packed schedule and promotional tour. “My life was controlled by too many people and that doesn’t really let you be yourself,” Britney told Yediot Ahronot in 2017 about this period in her life. “In that situation, when you’re not in control, you become less excited, and there’s less passion when it comes to music.”
Britney faced her biggest blow yet when she lost physical custody of her children to Federline in October of that year. The details of the court ruling were never revealed to the public, but Britney attempted to fight it in early 2008 when she locked herself in a room with one of her sons. The incident resulted in her being placed into an involuntary psychiatric hold at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. As per law in the state of California, this form of involuntary hold can only be used when “A person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled, a peace officer [or] professional person in charge… may, upon probable cause, take, or cause to be taken, the person into custody for a period of up to 72 hours for assessment, evaluation, and crisis intervention.”
Later that month, the mother of two entered treatment at another psychiatric facility at UCLA. Following these measures, California courts issued Britney Spears’ conservatorship order.
How does Britney Spears’ conservatorship work?
A conservatorship is “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,” as per the Judicial Branch of California. In Britney’s case, this means the star’s conservator has been granted complete control over her estate, financial and personal assets, and business affairs. This includes, but is not limited to, having deciding authority over her contractual agreements, medical health records, and more. Basically: If Britney wants to do anything, she must have the approval of her conservator.
Who is Britney Spears’ conservator?
California courts granted an emergency temporary conservatorship to Britney Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, in 2008. At the time, Jamie also signed into the conservatorship agreement with Britney’s attorney, Andrew Wallet, who went on to oversee the financial aspects of Britney’s assets. While the conservatorship was first issued in a temporary manner (most conservatorships are), Britney Spears’ conservatorship is rare in that it has been renewed for over a decade by the court.
In that decade, Britney Spears’ conservator has sometimes shifted. In 2012, for example, Britney’s then-boyfriend Jason Trawick proposed to her. After their engagement, Trawick was added as a co-conservator to her case until their split in 2013. Meanwhile, in 2019, Britney’s attorney Wallet resigned, effectively removing himself from the conservatorship. Shortly thereafter, Britney’s own father decided to temporarily step down from the conservatorship, citing “personal health reasons.” According to People, Britney’s longtime “care manager,” Jodi Montgomery, took his place.
The issue of Britney Spears’ conservator got more complicated in August of 2020, however, when the pop star issued a request to remove her father from her case permanently and opting for Montgomery to stay on as her new conservator. The day following Britney’s request, Jamie asked the court to reinstate himself and Wallet as co-conservators. Jamie’s request was approved. That same month, Jamie and Wallet named Britney’s younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, trustee of her estate, which means that Jamie Lynn would inherit all of Britney’s fortune if she dies.
In November 2020, a judge appointed Jamie and Bessemer Trust Company, a wealth management and advisory firm, as co-conservators over Britney’s estate. The move came after Britney requested that her father be replaced by Bessemer Trust. The company, however, resigned in July 2021 after Britney’s now-famous court hearing, where she spoke out against her conservatorship and her father.
In August 2021, Jamie Spears filed court documents announcing he would resign as her co-conservator following pressure from Britney’s new lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, to step down. In his filing, Jamie claimed there were “no actual grounds for suspending or removing” himself from her conservatorship, but ultimately decided to step aside as he “does not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests,” the documents read, per TMZ. Britney’s care manager, Jodi Montgomery, still remains as the conservator over her person.
Britney Spears’ conservatorship has increasingly come under scrutiny by fans, family members, and Britney herself. In July 2020, Britney’s own brother, Bryan, revealed that his sister has wanted to break free of the conservatorship for years. “She’s always wanted to get out of it. It’s very frustrating to have,” he said on the As NOT Seen on TV Podcast. “Whether someone’s coming in peace to help or coming in with an attitude, having someone constantly tell you to do something has got to be frustrating. She’s wanted to get out of it for quite some time.” Meanwhile, fans on social media have shared entire threads theorizing Britney’s coded pleas for help.
For more about Britney Spears, read her 2001 book, A Mother’s Gift. The semi-autobiographical fiction novel, which was co-written with Britney’s mother Lynne Spears, follows Holly Faye Lovell, a 14-year-old girl from the small town of Biscay, Mississippi, who has dreams of becoming a singer. When Holly becomes the youngest student ever to win a scholarship to the prestigious Haverty School of Music, she must make a choice of whether to leave her mother, Wanda, behind or pursue her dreams. As Holly starts her new life and makes posh new friends, she finds herself embarrassed by her mom and their humble background, as Wanda struggles with a long-hidden secret that could destroy her bond with her daughter forever.
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