Comments about Britney Spears’ conservatorship following the February 11 hearing . . .

As you might be aware, it is still very difficult for the public to obtain information about the proceedings in the Spears conservatorship. That fact is unusual as the general rule is that court proceedings are supposed to be, and are required to be open to the public, unless there is very good reason for some, or all, of the proceeding to not be open. Court proceedings are open to the public unless the Court makes a ruling otherwise. But, again, the presumption and legal principle that a court proceeding will be open to the public is very strong.

My understanding, based on what I have been able to read, is that following the February 11, hearing, Bessemer Trust and Jamie Spears remain as co-conservators of the estate, apparently with equal shared powers and authority. And that Jodi Montgomery remains as the conservator of the person.

This conservatorship is an ongoing saga. Current primary issues appear to include at least the following:

Will the conservatorship of the estate continue as it is, or be modified, or be terminated?

Will Jamie Spears continue as co-conservator of the estate as it is, or will his powers and authorities be modified, or will his appointment as co-conservator of the estate be terminated?

How will Bessemer Trust and Jamie Spears be able to work together as co-conservators of the estate? Will they be able to work together?

How much weight will the Court give to the requests for changes in the conservatorship that are being made by Britney Spears?

Will any of the issues and orders at the trial Court level be taken up on appeal?

And, perhaps, will the conservatorship of the person continue as it is, or be modified, or be terminated?

The following are a few additional observations:

Generally, conservators are required to communicate with the conservatee and to ask her about her wishes on important matters. However, that doesn’t bind the conservator to the conservatee’s wishes. The Court also should take the conservatee’s wishes into consideration.

Less restrictive options to the conservatorship and to the terms of the conservatorship must be taken into consideration by the Court and the parties. A conservatorship is a restriction on the rights of the conservatee.

On some issues the conservatee is entitled to a jury trial. Otherwise, the Judge has very significant authority to decide issues in a conservatorship, but those decisions must be made based on and in accordance with the applicable laws, the various burdens of poof that might apply, the standards of decision making that might apply (e.g., preponderance of the evidence or some higher standard), and the evidence.

Unless the court orders otherwise, if two co-conservators are ordered, the two co-conservators both must “concur” to exercise a power. Cal. Probate Code §2105. Other than whether either or both of the conservatorships of the estate and of the person will continue, or be modified, or be terminated, I would view the interactions between Bessemer Trust and Jamie Spears as probably being the most difficult and pressing issue. News reports indicate or suggest that there are ongoing disagreements over co-conservator scope of authority and possibly co-conservator decision making and ability to agree. Disagreements of those types could prompt the Court to make changes to its co-conservator order. See, e.g., Cal. Probate Code §§2105.5, and Chapter 9 including §2650, in addition to other Probate Code sections.

Best to you. David Tate, Esq.