Britney Spears’s private life has been on display ever since she burst on the scene back in the late ’90s with “…Baby One More Time.” It seems that every few months, new questions arise about the conservatorship the pop icon has been under since 2008 (initially with her father, Jamie Spears, in charge), with some fans even starting a #FreeBritney campaign.
But what, exactly, does a conservatorship mean, and what does the Spears family have to say about it? Let’s break it all down.
What is a conservatorship?
According to the Judicial Branch of California’s official website, 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.”
In February 2008, Britney Spears was put under a temporary psychiatric hold in Los Angeles, where she was treated at a UCLA facility. Following those measures, her father and an attorney were granted a temporary—then permanent (in October 2008)—conservatorship over her assets, estate, and business affairs.
The order has been in place ever since, though Jamie stepped down as a conservator in September 2019 due to “personal health reasons,” with Britney’s longtime “care manager,” Jodi Montgomery, taking his place.
In August 2020, People obtained new court documents that show Britney is “strongly opposed” to Jamie’s returning as conservator and instead “strongly prefers” that Montgomery continue in the role. “We are now at a point where the conservatorship must be changed substantially in order to reflect the major changes in her current lifestyle and her stated wishes,” Britney’s court-appointed attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III, says in the filing, according to the outlet.
As of November 4 that year, Britney filed an official motion to permanently remove her father as a co-conservator of her estate, per Us Weekly. Her lawyer reportedly requested that Bessemer Trust Company be the sole conservator moving forward.
“It is now obvious that any effort to create a viable working relationship between and among BRITNEY, BESSEMER TRUST and JAMES would be doomed to failure even without the added stress of litigating BRITNEY’S objections to the Account,” her lawyer reportedly wrote in the court document.
On November 10 a judge denied Britney’s request to remove her father from her conservatorship. “That’s the subject of another discussion down the road,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny said, according to CBS. Samuel Ingham III, Britney’s lawyer, said the singer has told him “on many occasions” she’s afraid of Jamie and doesn’t want to perform professionally while he’s in his current role.
On February 11, 2021, probate Judge Brenda Penny upheld the partnership between Jamie Spears and Bessemer Trust, rejecting the elder Spears’s petition to grant him sole control over his daughter’s estate, which Ms. Spears evidently does not want. After the decision Britney’s lawyer, Samuel Ingham, told the press, “It’s no secret that my client does not want her father as co-conservator, but we recognize that removal is a separate issue.” So this is, at least, not a step backward.
However, after Britney’s explosive testimony against the conservatorship in late June (more on that below), Bessemer Trust has removed itself from the equation.
What, exactly, is #FreeBritney?
There is a certain segment of the internet that’s become convinced Britney is sending secret messages to fans asking for help. It really gained steam back in 2019 but seems to pop back up again every few months, especially when Brit is active on social media. The gist is that fans think Britney wants out of the conservatorship, and they’ve started a movement, #FreeBritney, to support her. For a really deep dive on the movement, click here.
She even responded to fans concerned about her well-being with an Instagram post in April 2019.
What does her family say about all of this?
In July 2020, Jamie Lynn Spears shut down someone on social media who was questioning her older sister’s mental health. “You have no right to assume anything about my sister. And I have no right to speak about HER health and personal matters,” she wrote to the commenter. “She is a strong, badass, unstoppable woman, and that’s the only thing that is OBVIOUS.”
In August 2020, Jamie Spears finally spoke out about the #FreeBritney movement.
“All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything. The world don’t have a clue,” he told Page Six. “It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business. I have to report every nickel and dime spent to the court every year. How the hell would I steal something?”
Jamie Spears also spoke out about the aggressive behavior of some fans. “People are being stalked and targeted with death threats,” he said. “It’s horrible. We don’t want those kinds of fans. I love my daughter. I love all my kids. But this is our business. It’s private.”
In late August 2020, news came to light that Jamie Lynn Spears had been appointed trustee of Britney’s SJB Revocable Trust, which means she’s responsible for making sure Britney’s fortune is placed in a trust that will benefit her children in the event of her death. The appointment happened in 2018, according to Entertainment Tonight.
Okay, but what does Britney think of #FreeBritney?
Us Weekly reports there was a September 2 court filing, which the outlet obtained, and in it Britney’s lawyer claims that #FreeBritney is “far from a conspiracy theory” and that she welcomes the support. “Britney herself is vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret,” her attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III, said in the document (according to Us Weekly), requesting her case be open to the public.
“Far from being a conspiracy theory or a ‘joke’ as James reportedly told the media, in large part this scrutiny [on social media] is a reasonable and even predictable result of James’s aggressive use of the sealing procedure over the years to minimize the amount of meaningful information made available to the public,” Ingham continued, per Us. “Whatever merits his strategy might have had years ago when Britney was trying to restart her career, at this point in her life when she is trying to regain some measure of personal autonomy, Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans.”
Paris Hilton has weighed in too.
While speaking to Andy Cohen on SiriusXM’s Radio Andy, Paris Hilton shared her feelings on her friend’s conservatorship. “I saw her this summer. We’ve had dinners, I saw her in Malibu. I just love her so much,” Hilton said in the interview which went live on September 10. “I feel like if you are an adult, you should be able to live your life and not be controlled.”
Hilton continued, “I think that maybe stems from me being controlled so much, so I can understand how that would feel, and I can’t imagine right now if that was still happening to me. After just working your whole life and working so hard, she’s this icon, and I just feel like she has no control of her life whatsoever and I just don’t think that’s fair.”
Hilton did explain that she hasn’t spoken to Spears about the situation first-hand. “I don’t like bringing things up like that,” she said. “She is so sweet and so innocent and such a nice girl. We just talk about happy things. Music, fashion…fun things. I never like to bring up negative things and make people feel uncomfortable, so I’ve never talked about it with her.”
Britney Spears may be done performing for good.
According to court documents obtained by Entertainment Tonight, Spears is pushing back against the appointment of Andrew Wallet as co-conservator of her estate, as requested by her father. Wallet previously served in this capacity from 2008 to March 2019.
The documents reportedly claim that Wallet is both too expensive and “uniquely unsuitable” for the role. “To this date, Britney has not resumed performing and has stated that she does not desire to do so at this time,” the docs reportedly state.
Britney’s lawyer further alleges that the change was requested by her father “an hour before the last hearing” because “Britney’s decision not to perform will require him to undertake drastic changes to her budget.”
“Apparently this frugality does not extend to the fees James pays from the conservatorship to the financial professionals with whom he surrounds himself,” the documents reportedly continue, per ET. “Apart from the fact that Mr. Wallet has been extremely expensive in the past, based on what occurred over the 11 years he served as her co-conservator, there is no reason to believe that Mr. Wallet will be able to work with Britney to explain and implement any difficult budgetary choices that must be made.”
Britney has reportedly petitioned to appoint Bessemer Trust Company of California as conservator of her estate, per ET, as she would rather “work with a corporate fiduciary who can offer both a physical office and a team of independent financial professionals rather than a single individual, hand-picked by her father, who is a complete stranger to her.”
Her father, according to additional docs obtained by ET, reportedly claims his daughter’s response to his request is “full of factual misstatements.”
How is Britney doing, according to Britney herself?
The singer said she’s doing great in an Instagram video posted on November 2.
“Hi. So I know that there have been a lot of comments and a lot of people saying a lot of different things about me, but I just want to let you guys know that I am fine,” she says in the short clip. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I’m sending all of you guys a lot of prayers, wishes and a lot of love.”
Soon, Spears will speak to the court herself. On Tuesday, April 27, a court-appointed lawyer for Spears requested that she be allowed to speak at a hearing, and the judge agreed, reports The New York Times. Specifically, the lawyer asked that Spears be allowed to speak within the next 30 days, and the judge set the hearing date for June 23–not within 30 days but sooner than July, which is when the next hearing had been planned for.
The New York Times released a documentary about the situation.
It’s called Framing Britney Spears and premiered February 5, 2021.
And what does Britney think of Framing Britney Spears?
The elusive pop star took to Twitter to (obliquely) respond to the documentary, writing, “Each person has their story and their take on other people’s stories !!!! We all have so many different bright beautiful lives !!! Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens !!!!”
Earlier in the month Spears’s boyfriend Sam Asghari spoke out and called her dad Jamie a “dick,” so we can imagine he’s not a huge fan of the situation overall.
Spears finally spoke in court.
On June 23, Spears addressed the court directly and said she wants her conservatorship to end. “This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good. I deserve to have a life. I’ve worked my whole life,” she said. “I deserve to have a two- to three-year break and do what I want to do…. I’m tired of feeling alone. I deserve to have the same rights as anybody does by having a child, a family, any of those things, and more so.”
Variety has the full transcript, which you can read here.
A judge denied Britney Spears’s request to remove dad Jamie from conservatorship.
In November 2020, Britney Spears’s lawyer petitioned to remove her father, Jamie, as sole conservator of her estate, stating the pop icon was “afraid” of him. Her lawyer also introduced a new entity, Bessemer Trust, to potentially serve as Britney’s sole financial conservator. But in an unfortunate turn of events, the judge denied this request on June 30 and instead officially made Jamie and Bessemer Trust co-conservators. It’s worth noting this decision isn’t in response to Britney’s shocking testimony on June 23, where she revealed she wants out and is furious with her family.
Now: Bessemer Trust wants out as co-conservator.
It cited Britney’s testimony as the reason. In a legal filing, the wealth management firm said, “As a result of the conservatee’s testimony at the June 23 hearing, however, Petitioner [Bessemer Trust] has become aware that the conservatee objects to the continuance of her conservatorship and desires to terminate the conservatorship. Petitioner has heard the conservatee and respects her wishes.”
On July 2, L.A. Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny ruled that Bessemer Trust’s resignation would be “immediately effective.” This officially leaves Jamie as Britney’s sole conservator, per People.
This post may be updated as new information becomes available.
Originally Appeared on Glamour