'Best day ever': Britney Spears released from 13-year conservatorship

Britney (above) had begged the court to terminate the legal arrangement that has governed her personal life and estate since 2008. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (NYTIMES, REUTERS) - A Los Angeles judge ruled on Friday (Nov 12) that the conservatorship that has overseen Britney Spears' life and finances for nearly 14 years should be terminated immediately.

The ruling by Judge Brenda Penny of Los Angeles Superior Court ended an arrangement that Spears had complained of bitterly, and which her fans had rallied against.

In June, Spears, 39, told the court that the arrangement, which stripped her of control in nearly every aspect of her life, had traumatised and exploited her, and asked for it to end without her having to undergo additional mental evaluations.

On Friday, Penny agreed.

"The conservatorship of the person and estate of Britney Jean Spears is no longer required," she said.

Penny found that there was "no need for a capacity declaration" of Spears, noting that it had been a voluntary conservatorship.

The judge said Spears' current estate conservator would continue working to settle ongoing financial concerns related to the case. John Zabel, the certified public accountant who took over the estate, worth US$60 million (S$80 million), in September, would retain power to execute estate planning and transfer outside assets into an existing trust for Spears, Penny said.

She did not attend Friday's hearing in Los Angeles but said in an Instagram post, "I love my fans so much it's crazy!!! I think I'm gonna cry the rest of the day !!!! Best day ever."

The conservatorship has dominated the singer's life for nearly 14 years. It began in 2008, when James Spears, Spears' father, who is known as Jamie, first petitioned the court for authority over his adult daughter's life and finances, citing her public mental health struggles and possible substance abuse. The temporary guardianship was made permanent by the end of the year.

Since then, the conservatorship has entered into professional contracts on behalf of the pop star, dictated her travel and logged her every purchase down to a drink from Starbucks.

It also drew questions from Britney Spears' increasingly invested fans and outside observers, who asked why an active global celebrity and musician was in an arrangement typically reserved for people who cannot feed, clothe or shelter themselves.

In June, when Spears made her first extended public comments on the conservatorship in court, she said its authority went too far, saying that those in charge forced her to take medication, work against her will and use a birth control device. She called for them to be investigated and jailed, pointing to her father, 69, as "the one who approved all of it."

Behind the scenes, Spears had routinely bristled at the strictures of the arrangement, according to reporting and confidential documents obtained by The New York Times.

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In 2019, she had begun seeking substantial changes to the conservatorship, when she announced "an indefinite work hiatus."

In her comments at the June hearing, Spears said she did not know that she could file to end the arrangement altogether; her lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham III, soon resigned, and Penny allowed Spears to select her new lawyer, Mathew S. Rosengart, the next month.

Jamie Spears subsequently called for the conservatorship to be ended. His lawyer wrote in a recent status report that "Jamie believes that the conservatorship should end, immediately." The court suspended Jamie Spears as conservator of his daughter's nearly $60 million estate Sept. 29.

Rosengart has said he will push for Jamie Spears and the estate's former business manager, Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, to be investigated for financial mismanagement.

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