- Lawyers told Insider Britney Spears’ conservatorship is unusual as most people in her situation are elderly.
- Conservatees may lose the ability to make medical decisions and hire their own attorney, they said.
- Though the public lacks many details, lawyers said Spears’ case sheds light on a system that can be a “nightmare.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
One of the more shocking pieces of Britney Spears’ Wednesday statement in her conservatorship case was that her team refused to let her go to the doctor to remove an IUD.
“I want to be able to get married and have a baby. I was told I’m not able to get married,” Spears, who is dating actor Sam Asghari, told a judge in Los Angeles. “I have an IUD inside me so I won’t get pregnant but this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out.”
Roee Kaufman, a California attorney who practices conservatorship litigation, said Spears’ claim she has no control over her reproductive health is unusual in the context of a conservatorship – because normally the person in this situation would have aged out of their child-rearing years.
Typically, people placed in a probate conservatorship in California are elderly and have a degenerative condition that will only get worse, several attorneys who specialize in the area told Insider. Spears, who is 39, is much younger than the average conservatee, and is still apparently able-bodied enough to perform for millions of fans.
While out of the ordinary, it’s not surprising that a medical decision like this would fall under the authority of a conservator, according to Scott E. Rahn, another California-based attorney who specializes in these arrangements.
When Spears was placed in the conservatorship 13 years ago, there were allegations she was exploited by her manager. If Spears was being manipulated by a man who made her abuse substances, Rahn said it would make sense that a judge would limit her ability to marry or have children.
“I know that strikes a chord with everyone, and certainly women regarding their reproductive rights, and I can certainly understand that,” he said. “And I don’t have access to or privy to the medical records to understand exactly what her state is currently, but you can certainly understand how someone could have taken advantage of her at any point in time to get her pregnant, to have a child with her, and have that child be the backdoor into her world.”
While a conservatee can lose their right to make their own medical decisions, Kaufman said, a court also has to consider the conservator’s motivation when setting any restrictions.
“Now that we know that Britney doesn’t want, what is the good faith medical basis for saying no to this request?” he asked. “I don’t know what they’re going to be able to come up with, or what their justification will be. It potentially involves constitutional issues – because a woman’s right to dictate when, and whether she wants to have children, that’s something that’s protected by the constitution.”
Much of Spears’ case is still hidden from the public
In Spears’ case, the public doesn’t have access to the pop stars’ medical records or any input from her health care team. Conservatorship lawyers told Insider this information could shed light on why the arrangement has been allowed to carry on for so long.
Loren Barr, of Barr & Young Attorneys, said while someone may present as highly-functioning, their ability to make decisions still may be be impaired. He recalled a client he’s known for years who come in to speak about her estate, informing him it was about to grow substantially because she won the Spanish lottery. He later learned she had been scammed to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to another country in order to “collect her winnings.”
“This is the lady who’s driving, who’s shopping, who presents very well,” he said. “I talk to people all the time and there’s this tiny space of executive function that is damaged.”
Getting out of conservatorship is a ‘nightmare’
Rahn, Barr, and Kaufman all told Insider that Spears’ case sheds a light on a system that badly needs reform.
The singer’s next step will likely be to file a formal request to end her conservatorship. If there are objections, the attorneys said it could result in an evidentiary hearing that presents like a trial.
“Britney Spears can probably get out of it because she’s Britney Spears, and there will be a hundred people outside and reporters scrutinizing this case,” Barr said. “But for John Q public, they can’t. No one will listen to them. So I get that call probably twice a month from somebody who is conserved, who wants to get out, and it’s a nightmare.”
Most people who are placed in probate conservatorship die in the arrangement because they have a degenerative disease, the lawyers said – unless they’ve suffered a temporary illness, like a stroke, and can prove the conservatorship is no longer needed.
Even if a conservatee wants take back control over their life, Barr and Kauffman said, they can be blocked from retaining private counsel because a judge has already deemed them unfit to enter into a contract. Instead, they have to rely on an attorney appointed by the court.
“I’m thankful that Britney Spears has brought attention to the California conservatorship system because it really does need some help,” Barr said.