arrangement is voluntary.
The conservatorship — known in other states as a legal guardianship — has been in place since 2008 and dictates every move in the "...Baby One More Time” singer’s personal and professional life. But in a filing in Los Angeles Superior Court, the 38-year-old said that she wants to keep it in place and use her right to nominate a person or company to oversee her estate.
“This is a voluntary conservatorship. Conservatee wishes to exercise her right to nominate a conservator of the estate...,” her attorney, Samuel Ingham III, wrote in a Monday filing obtained by The Times.
The two-part conservatorship was meant to safeguard her person and her estate after her public unraveling in 2008. But its protracted nature has garnered interest and grown increasingly heated in the past year as the rampant, fan-fueled #FreeBritney movement has gained steam.
Last month, the singer’s court-appointed attorney filed documents stating that Spears didn’t want her father James “Jamie” Spears to operate as the sole conservator of her person or estate.
In the Monday filing, she made good on that declaration and sought to put the financial management company, Bessemer Trust, in charge of her estate. The company would oversee Spears’ finances and control the power of attorney for her medical health decisions and musical career.
She also wants the trust to have “the power and authorization to pursue opportunities related to professional commitments and activities including but not limited to performing, recording, videos, tours, TV shows, and other similar activities as long as they are approved by the conservator of the person and the Conservatee’s medical team.”
Her attorney and attorneys for her mother Lynne Spears submitted probate court documents that checked a box stating that Spears is “substantially unable to manage his or her financial resources or to resist fraud or undue influence.” That’s also where her attorney noted that the conservatorship is voluntary.
Ingham checked another box stating that Spears does not have a developmental disability as defined by Probate Code and attached the Bessemer Trust nomination signed personally by Spears.
The move comes after Spears’ father filed documents to have former co-conservator Andrew M. Wallet return to the case after he resigned in 2019 — a move that did not align with the singer’s recently stated desires.
Spears this week again said that she is “strongly opposed” to her father continuing as the sole conservator of her estate and “strongly prefers” to have a qualified corporate fiduciary appointed to serve in that role.
A hearing on the matter, which Spears said she’ll attend, is scheduled for Nov. 10.
The declaration echoes that of an earlier filing in which she also stated that she wants to stop performing. In January 2019, she abruptly canceled her “Britney: Domination” residency in Las Vegas before it even began, then checked into a mental health facility after revealing her father was sick. She has not performed live since 2018.
“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,” Ingham wrote in last month’s documents.
The singer has lived under a complex court arrangement since 2008, but in a new filing, her lawyer says the singer no longer wants her father in charge.
Since her infamous public breakdowns more than a decade ago, the pop singer Britney Spears has lived in California under a court-approved conservatorship, a complex legal arrangement meant to oversee her personal well-being and finances.
Steered largely by the singer’s father, James Spears, the conservatorship has functioned mostly out of public view, though fans and even some family members have intermittently worried aloud about the control exerted over Spears, 38, and her fortune, leading to repeated pleas and protests under the #FreeBritney banner.
Still, the singer herself has rarely commented on the arrangement, and has made little effort through her court-appointed lawyer to alter the structure of the conservatorship. That changed this week when the lawyer Samuel D. Ingham III submitted a filing Monday in which he said Spears now believes the conservatorship “must be changed substantially in order to reflect the major changes in her current lifestyle and her stated wishes.” (The filing was first reported by The Blast.)
Among those shifts, according to Ingham, was Spears’s “desire not to perform at this time,” following a four-year Las Vegas residency that ended in late 2017, and a one-off appearance the next year. In January 2019, the singer announced “an indefinite work hiatus,” canceling her next scheduled concert residency, citing the health of her father, who had suffered a ruptured colon.
Later that year, James Spears stepped back from his role as Spears’s personal conservator — a role he held since 2008, in which he oversaw her mental health care, among other things — and was replaced on a temporary basis by Jodi Montgomery, a licensed professional conservator.
Now, Spears has decided she is “strongly opposed” to having her father return as conservator of her person or her estate, according to Ingham’s filing, while also leaving open the possibility that she could seek to end the conservatorship entirely. “Without in any way waiving her right to seek termination of this conservatorship in the future,” the lawyer wrote, “Britney would like Ms. Montgomery’s appointment as conservator of her person to be made permanent.”
As for her financial affairs, or her estate, which James Spears has also managed since 2008, sometimes in tandem with another lawyer, “she strongly prefers to have a qualified corporate fiduciary appointed to serve in this role.”
Ingham added that he expected “any effort to achieve my client’s objectives as stated above will be aggressively contested by James,” and that Spears hoped to hire a law firm with “substantial expertise in handling contested litigation in a highly complex case such as this one.”
Ingham declined to comment on the case. Montgomery did not respond to a request for comment.
Though a conservatorship, sometimes called a guardianship, is typically used to protect the elderly, the mentally disabled or the extremely ill, Spears’s arrangement has been flexible to suit her specific needs, as per California law, Ingham said in his filing. He broke the arrangement down into three phases, calling the first “triage” — rescuing the singer “from a collapse, exploitation by predatory individuals and financial ruin” — and with the second phase covering her comeback, in which she regained “her position as a world class entertainer.” The third phase, Ingham said, would reflect Spears’s current pared-down public profile, in which her appearances have been relegated to a colorful Instagram account.
A status hearing in the case is scheduled for Wednesday in Los Angeles.
James Spears, better known as Jamie, gave a rare interview about the conservatorship earlier this month, denying fan-led allegations that the singer’s affairs were not being properly handled on his watch. “All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything,” he told Page Six. “The world don’t have a clue. It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business.”
“I love my daughter,” he added. “But this is our business. It’s private.”
Joe Coscarelli is a culture reporter with a focus on pop music. His work seeks to pull back the curtain on how hit songs and emerging artists are discovered, made and marketed. He previously worked at New York magazine and The Village Voice. @joecoscarelli
Jamie Spears is sick and tired of how #FreeBritney — an increasingly vocal online movement claiming his daughter Britney Spears is a prisoner in a gilded cage — is painting him as a villain.
An upset Jamie, 68, told The Post that the campaign, which posits him as a cruel and opportunistic father keeping the 38-year-old pop princess under his emotional and financial control in a 12-year-long legal conservatorship, “is a joke.”
“All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything. The world don’t have a clue,” he said. “It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business.”
Jamie angrily denied long-standing rumors that he or anyone else is skimming money off the top of Britney’s estate.
“I have to report every nickel and dime spent to the court every year,” he said. “How the hell would I steal something?”
The dad said what really bothers him is the aggressiveness of the #FreeBritney supporters. “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,” Jamie continued, getting emotional. “I love all my kids. But this is our business. It’s private.”
Britney’s life and struggles, however, have long played out in public.
And recently, celebrities including Ruby Rose, Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton, Ariel Winter and Rose McGowan have lent their support to the #FreeBritney movement, Instagramming and tweeting about how the singer is allegedly unable to make her own decisions about her career, personal life and health because of the ongoing conservatorship.
“Her father doesn’t allow her to drive, all of her calls & messages are monitored, she’s not allowed to vote, hang with anyone or spend her money without permission. And if she breaks a ‘rule’ he threatens to have her kids taken away,” claims one change.org petition, with more than 100,000 signatures, lobbying for Britney’s freedom.
The #FreeBritney crusaders have blasted social media with posts, purporting to show that Jamie claimed Britney had dementia in 2008, and that Jamie and the star’s business manager, Lou Taylor of Tri Star Sports and Management, are embezzling from her.
Lately, Britney’s camp has started striking back: Taylor, who did not return calls from The Post, recently settled with #FreeBritney supporter Bryan Kuchar after suing him last year for creating Web sites that called Taylor the “mastermind controlling the pop star.”
A number of Spears insiders insist that the star is not a helpless pawn.
“Absolutely not,” Charlie Ebersol, who dated Britney for eight months in 2015, told The Post. As for the wild rumor that Jamie hires his daughter’s boyfriends and pays them $1,000 a week to date her, Ebersol said: “Not [true] in any way, shape or form.”
One insider said that while Jamie is “not perfect,” he “really stepped up for Britney.”
The conservatorship, which put much of the star’s decision-making into the hands of Jamie and lawyers, was established 12 years ago, after Britney’s very public meltdown.
At the time, it was meant to be temporary. But the fact that it’s gone on so long makes some question who is really benefiting from it. Those close to the singer, however, say that Britney is more comfortable with — and ambivalent about — the situation than people realize.
“It’s not at all a conservatorship like you read about for old people,” said the insider. “It protects her in a way people like Michael Jackson weren’t protected, from themselves and from other people. She’s been able to perform all this time because performing is where she is happiest.
“When she’s left to her own devices is where the trouble starts. She does have some serious issues.”
Born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, Britney rocketed to stardom at age 17 with her first single, “. . . Baby One More Time” and remained one of the most popular artists of the next few years.
Her first eyebrow-raising behavior was in 2004, when she married a childhood pal on a whim and got an annulment 55 hours later because, according to court documents, she “lacked understanding of her actions.”
But things really began to unravel in 2006, after she had wed backup dancer Kevin Federline and given birth to their eldest son, Sean. Child Services repeatedly checked in on the family, including after the baby fell out of a high chair and was seen in a vehicle on Britney’s lap rather than in a car seat.
The next year was a whirlwind of unhinged TV appearances; a marriage split (and subsequent divorce) two months after the birth of her second son, Jayden, with Federline; and worrisome paparazzi photos of Britney partying hard with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.
Then, in early 2007, Britney checked in and quickly out of rehab, showed up at a Los Angeles beauty shop and shaved off her hair, and attacked a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella. She went back to rehab, gave a jaw-droppingly sad performance at the VMAs, was booked on hit-and-run charges (later dropped) and lost custody of her children to Federline.
That seemed to be the straw that truly broke her. In January 2008, Britney was hauled away in an ambulance after a three-hour police standoff in which she refused to return her sons to Federline’s custody.
Weeks later, she was again taken to a hospital and placed on a psychiatric hold — leading a Los Angeles court to declare her father her legal conservator to handle virtually all her affairs.
During the past 12 years, she has been allowed to make records, tour and even have a Las Vegas concert residency — leading many to speculate: If she can work, why isn’t she allowed to make her decisions?
When asked whether Britney is mentally unstable, ex-boyfriend Ebersol was resolute: “Absolutely not,” he said. That statement was echoed by other former boyfriends including David Lucado, who dated her in 2014. (Britney is now dating Iranian-born bodybuilder Sam Asghari, 26.)
Adam Streisand agrees. The Los Angeles-based lawyer was hired by Britney in 2008 after her hospitalization, until a doctor reported that she was not competent enough to choose her own lawyer and the court appointed her a new one.
He told The Post that, even when she was near rock bottom, Britney did not appear crazy, “just agitated. She understood the concept of a conservatorship but just did not want her father to be the conservator.”
Nonetheless, Streisand does not believe that Jamie or the business managers have been skimming money from Britney. It’s believed that her fortune, said to be anywhere from $60 million to $215 million, was placed in a trust as part of the conservatorship.
“Jamie’s a weird guy, he’s a control freak,” Streisand said. “But I don’t see him as some sort of criminal mastermind in this.”
The Spears family is splintered, however. Last summer, Jamie was temporarily removed from the conservatorship after he allegedly broke down a door and grabbed Sean during an altercation, resulting in a restraining order that forbids him from seeing Britney’s two sons. In March, Jayden lashed out against Jamie on Instagram. Britney’s mom, Lynne, who divorced Jamie in 2002, has reportedly liked at least one #FreeBritney post. Last week, Britney’s brother, Bryan, said that the star wanted out of the conservatorship — but that “it has been a great thing for our family.”
The next hearing on the conservatorship is to be held Aug. 22, and it’s unclear what Britney herself wants to come of it.
Meanwhile, some are beginning to wonder if maybe Britney herself is toying with fans.
While no one disputes her mental-health struggles, Britney has had a knack for masterminding key aspects of her career ever since she came up with the concept of wearing a Catholic-schoolgirl uniform for the video of her first smash hit, “. . . Baby One More Time,” when she was only 17.
By design or not, some say the notoriously agoraphobic singer now stars in a shrewdly curated Instagram feed that keeps her in the public eye without her ever having to leave home.
Her feed is a mix of inspirational bromides, kittenish dancing and provocative, New Age-type musings from which #FreeBritney believers seek hidden meanings.
“I feel like every post is cryptic code for something…” Nicolle Ronayne commented on an Instagram photo Britney posted about the “Pink Planet… aka GJ 504b… the planet made of pink gas!”
Even the star’s appearance is viewed with suspicion. “In every Instagram picture she looks like a zombie and she’s always wearing some version of the same outfit like she’s frozen back in time in the late ’90s,” an industry insider observed. “It’s weird.”
At times, the singer almost seems to be trolling fans, coyly answering their questions in Instagram videos but rarely addressing their anguished cries asking her to let them know if she needs rescuing.
“Whatever is or is not wrong with her, the #FreeBritney movement is making her relevant at a time when a lot of pop stars [from the early 2000s] are aging out of the public eye,” veteran music producer Ed Steinberg told The Post.
“Her management, her label and Britney herself aren’t stupid. They may not have started the movement but they’re benefiting from it.”
Additional reporting by Colleen McPolin
FILED UNDER BRITNEY SPEARS , CONSPIRACY THEORIES , 8/1/20