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.
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.