Britney Spears: What is a conservatorship and why was she given one?

5 May 2021, 20:11
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Updated:
5 May 2021, 19:11

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BBC Two, Britney Spears

Britney Spears and her controversial conservatorship is the subject of this documentary fronted by BAFTA award-winning journalist Mobeen Azhar.

In February, Framing Britney Spears revealed the story of the legal conservatorship, and this BBC documentary covers roughly the same ground.

But what is a conservatorship and why was Britney given one?

Here’s everything you need to know!

Perez Hilton talks to Mobeen Azhar about Britney’s conservatorship (Credit: BBC Two)

Read more: Framing Britney Spears: How and when can I watch the documentary in the UK?

What is a conservatorship?

A conservatorship is granted by a court for individuals who are unable to make their own decisions.

Usually, they are granted in the case of those suffering with dementia or other mental illnesses.

Britney’s conservatorship is split into two parts – one is for her estate and financial affairs, the other is for her as a person.

Under this legal agreement, the singer has not controlled her finances since 2008.

Her father was initially in charge of both parts of the conservatorship, allowing him to make decisions about her career, estate and personal life.

Her finances must be documented with the court.

In short, the arrangement means that Britney is not in control of large parts of her life, particularly her financial affairs.

Her father Jamie Spears stepped down as her personal conservator in 2019 due to personal health reasons, and a temporary conservator took over.

He still has control of her estate, but a judge has ordered he share responsibility with a financial management company.

Why was Britney given a conservatorship?

In 2008, a legal conservatorship gave Britney’s dad Jamie control of his daughter’s finances, medical treatment and more.

After several years of media scrutiny, the Gimme More singer suffered a public mental breakdown.

Footage of Britney shaving her hair off, and attacking a cameraman went viral.

As a result, her dad requested she be put under a court-ordered conservatorship in 2008.

The judge handed control of her career and finances to her father, Jamie.

This came at a turbulent time for Britney.

It followed her divorce from Kevin Federline and a time when she lost custody of their two children.

Mobeen Azhar with Billy Brasfield (aka ‘Billy B’), Britney Spears’ make-up artist and friend (Credit: BBC Two)

Read more: Jesy Nelson reveals stunning transformation amid Little Mix’s first music video without her

#FreeBritney movement: Fans’ conspiracy claims

Britney’s dad Jamie is now the perceived villain of the fan-driven #FreeBritney movement.

Her followers and fans believe Britney should be ‘freed’ from the conservatorship.

Rumours, campaigns and conspiracy theories have swirled around the case in recent years.

Britney’s fans have been left scrutinising her social media posts for apparent clues about her condition.

Jordan Miller, the founder of fan site Breathe Heavy, first coined the phrase “Free Britney”, which was later adopted as the hashtag and slogan of fan campaigns.

Some of Britney’s fans believe she was forced into the arrangement and have suggested she has been pleading for help on social media.

#FreeBritney campaigners have even asked the White House to end her conservatorship, submitting petitions with tens of thousands of signatures.

Campaigners for the #FreeBritney movement regularly demonstrate outside court hearings.

Is her social media being controlled?

The singer herself has not commented on the #FreeBritney campaign.

However, she has asked fans not to believe “everything you read and hear”.

In an Instagram video in 2019, she said: “For those of you who don’t think I post my own videos… you’re wrong.”

Her lawyer has also told the Los Angeles Times that she is part of the decision-making process when it comes to her career.

The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship airs on BBC Two (Credit: BBC Two)

What has Britney Spears said?

After months of not addressing the conservatorship or the #FreeBritney movement, she recently gave fans some clues about her mental health.

Days after Framing Britney aired in the US and the UK, she posted on Instagram: “Each person has their story and their take on other people’s stories.

“We all have so many different bright beautiful lives. Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens!”

She later admitted she’d cried over the film.

She said: “I didn’t watch the documentary, but from what I did see of it I was embarrassed by the light they put me in.

“I cried for two weeks and well I still cry sometimes!

“I do what I can in my own spirituality with myself to try and keep my own joy, love and happiness.”

More recently, Britney posted more of an insight into her current life.

She said: “2021 is definitely way better than 2020 but I never knew it was gonna be like THIS!

“So many documentaries about me this year with other people’s takes on my life!

“What can I say? I’m deeply flattered!”

However, she added: “These documentaries are so hypocritical… They criticise the media and then do the same thing!

“I think the world is more interested in the negative. […] Why highlight the most negative and traumatising times in my life from forever ago?”

She also reassured her fans once again that it’s her own Instagram and not controlled by anyone else.

Britney Spears conservatorship: the court battle so far

Last November, Britney’s lawyers launched a legal bid to remove her father as conservator of her estate – but failed.

The lawyers said she was “afraid of her father” and would not resume her career while he controlled it.

Meanwhile, Jamie launched a legal bid to take more control, but this also failed.

But in November, a judge declined to remove Mr Spears, naming financial firm the Bessemer Trust as a co-conservator of her estate instead.

A month later, the judge extended Mr Spears’ conservatorship until September 2021.

In April, Britney’s lawyer announced the singer had requested to “address the court directly” at a forthcoming conservatorship hearing in June.

Jamie Spears has said that Britney has always had the right to request an end to the conservatorship, which she has never exercised.

Indeed, she has previously referred to the arrangement as “voluntary”.

This suggests she doesn’t currently object to the conservatorship itself.

Instead, she appears to reject the fact her father remains in charge, as opposed to somebody she nominated herself.

Britney in the video for Baby One More Time (Credit: YouTube)

Britney’s net worth

As of 2018, Britney had a net worth of $59m (£46m), according to Business Insider.

In the same year, she spent $1.1m on legal and conservator fees, according to court documents obtained by the Entertainment Tonight website.

In 2021, Britney Spears’ net worth is reportedly $60 million.

The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship on BBC Two

Journalist Mobeen Azhar attempts to untangle the complexities surrounding the controversial conservatorship Britney Spears has been under for the past 13 years.

He looks at the fans behind the #FreeBritney movement and includes never-seen-before interviews with those close to the star.

Contributors include her former choreographer Brian Friedman, who reveals he quit working for Britney after receiving “multiple death threats weekly” from fans.

Meanwhile, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton apologises for his treatment of Britney in the past.

Mobeen also meets with Billy Brasfield (aka ‘Billy B’), Britney’s make-up artist and friend.

Billy claims to still be in regular contact with the 39-year-old.

He says: “She wants to be able to drive her car when she wants to.

“In her conservatorship, she does not have that right.”

However, on Insta, Britney insists she “doesn’t talk to Billy B at all”.


The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship airs on Wednesday May 05 2021 at 9pm on BBC Two.

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