How Britney Spears got back her life and money after 14 years

Britney Spears
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Britney Spears

Highlights

When a person is considered to have a severely diminished mental capacity, a court can step in and grant someone the power to make financial decisions and major life choices for them.

How do conservatorships work?

When a person is considered to have a severely diminished mental capacity, a court can step in and grant someone the power to make financial decisions and major life choices for them. California law says a conservatorship, called a guardianship in some states, is justified for a "person who is unable to provide properly for his or her personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter," or for someone who is "substantially unable to manage his or her own financial resources or resist fraud or undue influence." The conservator, as the appointee put in charge is called, may be a family member, a close friend or a court-appointed professional. Several states have recently used the attention that Spears has brought to the issue to reform their conservatorship laws.

Who had power over Spears?

The ultimate power in the conservatorship fell to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny. She used it on Friday to end it. Before his suspension in September, her father James Spears had the lion's share of day-to-day power over his daughter's choices for 13 years. In 2019, he gave up the role of conservator over her life decisions, maintaining control only over her finances. His replacement, John Zabel, now has a few minimal administrative powers to move Britney Spears' money around as power over it transitions back to her. Jodi Montgomery, a court-appointed professional, acted as conservator over her personal matters from 2019 until Friday. Her agreement was key when the termination finally came.

How does Spears feel about all of this?

For years it was largely a mystery. But allowed to speak publicly in court in June, she called the conservatorship "abusive" and "stupid" and says it does her "way more harm than good." And in her social media posts on Friday, she declared, "Best day ever … praise the Lord."

What happens now?

Regaining her personal and financial powers after so many years will take some untangling. Montgomery, along with therapists and doctors, have created a care plan for the transition, and her attorney Mathew Rosengart says a financial safety net is in place too.

Rosengart has vowed to pursue an investigation of James' Spears handling of the conservatorship even after it ends. He could take action in civil court, and has suggested he may even turn over his findings to law enforcement for consideration of criminal charges.

James Spears has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Britney Spears is likely to hire financial managers, assistants and attorneys to perform many of the same duties previously performed by the conservatorship. But their decisions will be subject to her approval, instead of vice-versa.

Why did so many call to #Freebritney?

Some fans objected to the conservatorship soon after it began. But the movement, and the #FreeBritney hashtag, truly took hold early in 2019, when some believed she was being forced into a mental health hospital against her will. They pored over her social media posts to extract clues about her well-being and protested outside the courthouse at every hearing. They were long dismissed by Spears' father and others as conspiracy theorists, but in the end their power was undeniable. They felt vindicated by two dramatic speeches she gave this summer, in which she confirmed many of their suspicions. They felt triumphant when her father was removed. And they felt truly jubilant when the conservatorship was terminated. She was quick to give them credit, since first acknowledging in court filings in 2020 that they may have a point. "Good God I love my fans so much it's crazy" she said on Twitter and Instagram after Friday's ruling, along with video of the celebrations outside the courthouse and the new hashtag #FreedBritney.

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