Jamie Spears, the father of pop star Britney Spears, has agreed to step down as the conservator of his daughter’s estate after 13 years of control over her financial decisions.
The voluntary removal was unveiled Thursday when Jamie Spears’ legal team filed a response on his behalf addressing a July 27 petition filed by his daughter’s new attorney, Mathew Rosengart, to remove him as conservator.
“Even as Mr. Spears is the unremitting target of unjustified attacks, he does not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests,” the filing noted. “So even though he must contest this unjustified Petition for his removal, Mr. Spears intends to work with the Court and his daughter’s new attorney to prepare for an orderly transition to a new conservator.”
The response comes days after Los Angeles probate Judge Brenda Penny denied a petition filed by Rosengart to move a Sept. 29 hearing about the case up to Aug. 23 in an effort to remove Spears’ father as conservator as fast as possible.
While Jamie Spears’ voluntary removal is a step forward for the pop star in her ongoing fight for financial freedom, the official removal will still have to go through the judge, and the court is still likely to appoint a successor conservator over her finances that will be a custodian of assets, such as a wealth management team, or trust company, said Lisa Cukier, a partner at Burns Levinson law firm who specializes in estate planning.
“I do anticipate the court will accept Jamie’s resignation,” Cukier said. “And I anticipate that Jamie will spend some time refuting some of the allegations that he is now left with.”
Jamie Spears’ response follows his daughter’s June testimony in front of Judge Penny about her experience with her conservatorship during her June testimony, including claims of abuse by her father and conflicts of interest on his part. The judge has denied Spears’ multiple requests to have her father removed from the conservatorship.
The removal of Spears’ father does not signal the end of the conservatorship, Cukier said. Spears still has to present tangible proof to the presiding judge that she has been restored to sufficient mental capacity to manage her own affairs.
Still, Jamie Spears voluntarily stepping down leaves room for his daughter’s legal team to put more resources in place to eventually remove the conservatorship altogether, said Blair DuQuesnay, an investment adviser and financial planner at Ritholtz Wealth Management.
“Now there will be no long, expensive court battle to remove him,” DuQuesnay said. “It opens the door for an institutional trustee such as Bessemer Trust, which resigned last month, to step in again and assist with financial matters.”
Conservatorship aside, Spears is a wealthy individual who needs professional financial advice, DuQuesnay said. “Her attorney can now focus on removing the conservatorship entirely or putting a system in place that works best for Britney,” she said. “Money, time and angst were all saved by Jamie’s decision to step down.”
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Spears has had a strained relationship with her father for years, which leaves financial advisers questioning the validity of having family members appointed by the court to control an individual’s finances versus a fiduciary-bound financial adviser.
Jamie Spears has gained millions of dollars from his control of his daughter’s estate, according to reports. The way to remove that conflict of interest would be to employ a third party that isn’t going to benefit from the decisions they’re making on Britney Spears’ behalf, said Lindsey Swanson, financial adviser with Great Lakes Investment Management.
“For better or worse, family members bring in personal biases like religion or past experiences,“ Swanson said. “It’s easier to impose ethics and rules on government conservators rather than family members.”
It is wise to eliminate conflicts of interest to the extent possible, said Noah Damsky, principal at Marina Wealth Advisors and a former adviser for conservatorships when he worked at Bessemer Trust from 2014 to 2018.
“Dealing with family in a circumstance like this can be tricky, so a third-party, unbiased and objective conservator can ultimately diffuse tension and help the situation going forward,” Damsky said. “Given the uncertainty that comes with change, it is impossible to say whether a new conservator will ultimately help, as much as we hope it results in the best for Britney.”
While conflicts between family members acting as conservator and conservatee are not uncommon, the sheer size of Spears’ estate increases the conflicts of interest involved, said Daniel Yerger, president and founder of MY Wealth Planners.
“The removal of Britney’s father from the conservatorship is a significant and positive move,” Yerger said. “Typically professional fiduciaries are compensated hourly based on their services, but in his case [Jamie] was being paid a salary that amounted to almost $200,000 a year and a percentage of her business profits.”
While that compensation wouldn’t be unusual for a business manager or an agent, the lack of negotiation for that compensation arrangement was a major conflict of interest, Yerger said.
“His withdrawal from the conservatorship doesn’t guarantee that Britney will be released from the conservatorship or that she’ll get everything she wants, but the introduction of professional and more neutral parties certainly improves the probability,” he said.
Spears’ case has prompted two lawmakers to rethink the entire system. Reps. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla., introduced the bipartisan “Free Britney” Act to address conservatorship abuse and protect the rights of Americans who are under conservatorships.
Moving forward, Spears’ high-profile case could mean further discussions about the conservatorship system and ways the system could be improved, said Catherine Valega, financial planner with Green Bee Advisory.
“I would argue that most functioning adults would want to manage their own affairs, financial and otherwise,” Valega said. “There are plenty of people to surround yourself with who can help, for example, financial planners.
“We are used to being the quarterback of our clients’ relationships with bookkeepers, attorneys and accountants — communicating with our clients regularly and making sure everyone is on the same page,” she said.
The post Britney Spears’ father agrees to step down as conservator appeared first on InvestmentNews.
Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.