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Royal Law Firm PLLC

Royal Law Firm PLLC

Britney Spears’ Trust is Toxic; and Her Situation is Anything But Lucky

Britney Spears’ Trust is Toxic; and Her Situation is Anything But Lucky

Britney Spears’ very public meltdown in 2008 led to her father, Jaime, as court-appointed conservator of her person and property. The conservatorship, also known in some states as guardianship, is limited to people with diminished capacity to make decisions for themselves, and are meant to be temporary. However, Britney has remained under court control for 12 years – much longer than anyone expected.

 

Britney has lost a bid to remove her father as conservator of her estate. Britney’s lawyer said she was afraid of her father, and would not perform until he is removed from the role of conservator (she has been on a performance hiatus since 2019). The well-known Bessemer Trust  was appointed co-conservator, and the judge said she would consider future appeals for dismissal of outright removal of Jaime as conservator. 

 

Britney’s situation is anything but Lucky, but much of the strife, hassle, and expense of the conservatorship could have been prevented by proper estate planning. With a proper estate plan that takes into account disability, people don’t have to argue about who is in charge and that person or organization in charge has the power to take the necessary and immediate actions. A very public meltdown at the age of 26 may not be so common, but incapacity before death is extremely common. 

 

Britney created a Revocable Trust in 2004 to manage her assets and legally protect her sons, but there are additional strategies Britney could have used to avoid being placed under a conservatorship: executing a durable power of attorney, and nominating a conservator. 

 

When you grant “durable power of attorney” to another person, you are designating that person as your agent, to act on your behalf. This person may be your spouse, your child, a friend, or anyone, so long as they are an adult and not incarcerated or incapacitated. These documents are written so that these powers are only granted while you are incapacitated and unable to act on your own, and are called “springing” powers of attorney, because they spring into action upon your incapacity.

 

In the event you need to give full control to someone as conservator, you should nominate a person for that job too. This nomination is contained in the durable power of attorney for property (conservator of the estate nomination) and in the advance healthcare directive or durable power of attorney for healthcare (conservator of the person).  For families with complex relationships and assets, this basic planning strategy can be coordinated well with more sophisticated planning with trusts, including special needs trusts and splitting authorities between various agents, responsibilities,  and assets as needed. 

If you became a danger to yourself or others, and the need for a conservatorship became apparent, a court would investigate and confirm your nomination. But you would still have primary input. The default in California for a court-appointed conservatorship is spouses, adult children, then parents. Britney was not married in 2008, and her children were minors, so her father was next in line to be appointed. It’s not clear why her father (and not her mother) was chosen, but Britney has recently requested her mother be included as part of her conservatorship to oversee finances

Regardless of the situation, when you designate a person as an agent for durable power of attorney, or nominate as a conservator, clear your decision with your designees and nominees while you still can. It’s a heavy responsibility to take on either power of attorney or to become a conservator, and you want to make sure everyone will agree to serve.

Contact us to create a plan that will help protect you in any situation, including incapacity or illness.