The continuing 13-year-old conservatorship saga of Britney Spears to free her of having her father run her personal and professional life has put financial and civil rights abuse in guardianship and conservatorship (California conservatorship is similar to guardianship in Texas) in the national spotlight. After Spears testified that she was even forced to keep an IUD in her body (although conservators don’t really have that much power) to prevent her from having more children since it would interfere with her singing career, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and HHS secretary Xavier Becerra have stated in a letter that state agencies undertake an investigation of its guardianship procedures to ensure the best practices and to determine if protected classes of persons are specifically targeted for abuse. Sensing empathy with the growing sentiment for the “Free Britney” movement, politicians (including embattled Florida congressman Matt Gaetz who is under attack for his possible scandalous involvement with underage prostitution) are trying to make political hay by saying they want to help and suggesting public congressional testimony due to the “obvious financial, emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of your conservators.” Whether politicians’ motives are sincere or not, it is clear that state guardianship procedures will be under the microscope since Britney’s impassioned unsuccessful plea to have her father, Jamie Spears, removed as a co-conservator due to alleged abuse.
Bessmer Trust (a highly respected management company set to act as co-conservator to manage Britney’s assets) has asked the court to be removed as a co-conservator after hearing Britney’s testimony. On July 1, 2021, Bessmer Trust petitioned the court and stated that “Petitioner (Bessmer Trust) has become aware that the conservatee (Britney) objects to the continuance of her conservatorship and desires to terminate the conservatorship. Petitioner has heard the conservatee and respects her wishes.” Although this is collateral damage to Britney since Bessmer would keep a watchful eye on Jamie Spears handling of assets for the benefit of Britney, its request will further accentuate the need to review and reform state guardianship procedures. Whether or not the court decision to continue to have Britney’s father as a co-conservator was correct (another hearing is set for July 14), the famed singer’s soap opera battle may collaterally benefit those protected classes of persons targeted for abuse (typically older Americans and Americans with intellectual and developmental health disabilities) who are placed under conservatorship or guardianship. So, although Britney may not have been “freed”, her fame and her fight against alleged abuses may help others whose voices may not have otherwise been heard.
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