Britney Spears’ conservatorship blocks marriage option and more

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Britney Spears, might seem an unlikely legal icon, much less in the area of probate, but such status appears looming with new attention focused on her conservatorship.  While Spears may have regained emotional control of her life, her status as a probate court ward highlights the liberty-voiding nature of conservatorships (also called guardianships).

A Fox News article appears to have kicked off new interest in Spears’ legal status.  The article discussed Spears’ return to the public eye with a new album, an upcoming tour and the subsequent whirlwind of promotional appearances.  It also mentioned Spears’ parents desire to keep the entertainer from testifying in a trial related to a lawsuit in which her mother, Lynn Spears, is being sued for defamation by former manager, Sam Lufti.  Spears’ parents reportedly claim their daughter is “mentally incapable” of testifying in court.

Spears’ parents evidently maintain that while Britney is ready for the pressure of a concert tour, she can’t handle a courtroom appearance.  Meanwhile Fox News reports some experts term shielding Spears from “situations that could derail her progression” as “short sighted” and “that such a bold move could have potentially dangerous ramifications for Spears.”

Celebrity life coach Patrick Wanis PhD. is quoted as saying ““While it might be convenient to protect her from the court case – legally, mentally and emotionally – this ploy by the parents is a dangerous claim because it can create other consequences regarding her custody of her children or her mental capacity as a parent.”

And one of those consequences could surface if Spears indeed wants to marry boyfriend Jason Trawick.  Under the conservatorship, she can’t.

With this point as a recent celebrity blog headline, the public is beginning to see how Americans of all ages and dispositions – not just the old, young or infirmed – can be subjected to a growing class of right-less adult Americans.

Though the term conservatorship or guardianship can conjure an image of a nurturing, protective relationship, the status typically means that the conserved person (or ward) loses basic rights, such as the ability to sign contracts, vote, marry or divorce, buy or sell real estate, or make decisions about medical procedures.

Cases undoubtedly occur in which this is an appropriate course of action.  In today’s world, however, when civil liberties and other freedoms are constantly under assault, increasing use of this legal instrument which allows a functional hijacking of individual liberty and property rights poses legitimate cause for concern.

Since publication of the Fox News piece, Hollywood Life and other gossip outlets circulated reports attributed to In Touch Weekly and claiming that Jamie Spears has forbidden Britney from having more children.  Britney’s own web site has issued a direct denial of that claim.

Media dramatics aside, the realities of Britney Spears’ conservatorship technically place her father Jamie in control of her medical treatment and other health-oriented decisions.  This is not to make any prediction or suggest any way in which this authority might manifest.  It is simply to make the point that through conservatorships (guardianships), probate court actions can deny a ward the most basic of civil and property rights.  That applies to Britney Spears and includes impacting her ability to marry, have children and retain custody of current and/or future children.

While conservatorships (and guardianships) as a probate court tool may have been conceived as a protective measure for society’s most vulnerable, the public is well-served in understanding the severe loss of rights as well as the growing use – and sometimes abuse – of this legal mechanism.

Conservatorships are no longer about what might happen to your grandmother – as Britney Spears can attest, it’s about what can happen to you!

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture. She is the Online Producer at www.EstateofDenial.com, a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity Foundation – Texas and a Director of Women on the Wall. Lou Ann may be contacted at info@EstateofDenial.com.

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