Britney Spears, conservatorships and the nuanced world of hidden disabilities
The documentary "Framing Britney Spears" - which recently aired in the United States - highlighted Britney's conservatorship (the US equivelant of a deputyship here in the UK), a legal arrangement that has given her father, Jamie Spears, control over her estate, career and other aspects of her personal life, including medical treatment, for the past 13 years.
The documentary chronicled the singer's rise to fame amid intense scrutiny by paparazzi and media and the approval of the conservatorship at a time when American tabloids and news organizations were aggressively reporting on her sturggles with mental health.
It depicted Jamie as largely absent from his daughter’s life until he gained control of her finances, and detailed the circumstances around a judge’s 2008 decision to not allow the singer to choose her own lawyer. The film also included an interview with a lawyer who claimed that when he spoke with Britney in 2008, she told him she would accept the guardianship as long as her father was not the appointed conservator.
Framing Britney also raised questions about how the 39 year pop star could simultaneously be performing sold-out shows for her Las Vegas residency and making millions, while also being considered incapable of making decisions about her finances and health.
Mark Wilding, solicitor in our Court of Protection team, comments:
"The recent news reports on Britney Spears highlights the nuanced world of hidden disabilities. This is an area that Potter Rees Dolan are extremely familiar with, specifically our Court of Protection department which is the England and Wales equivalent the US conservatorship.
"We manage the property and finances of clients with a full range of abilities but whom, following medical assessment, are deemed to lack capacity. This is typically following an acquired brain injury, and the scope of each clients capacity can be considerable. Some clients are able to manage a monthly sum and household expenses but have difficulty managing large sums as appears to be the case with Ms Spears; however, others have difficulty managing money on a daily basis and need significant support with this. In both these examples you would not be able to determine whom was more capable with their finances from their physical appearance.
"Our role as Court appointed Finance Deputy is to ensure that our clients receive the support that they individually require whilst maintaining as much independence as possible. It is not for us to advise whether purchasing Britney Spears latest album is a good use of their money! A Property and Financial Affairs Deputy provides reassurance to our client and their family, who have often been through and continue to go through challenging circumstances, that the money that they have is managed appropriately."