A wealth management firm that had been tapped as co-conservator of singer Britney Spears’ estate, has asked a Los Angeles court to withdraw from the case after the pop superstar’s testimony that she opposed the arrangement.
Bessemer Trust, a New York-based international finance management company, was approved by a court last year to be added as co-conservator of Spears’s financial assets of around $60m alongside her father, Jamie Spears.
The news that the company now wants to withdraw came as politicians in California responded to the international outcry about the singer’s peculiar legal arrangement with proposed reforms that aim to expand the rights and due process of people in conservatorships.
Disability rights activists say changes to the process are long overdue, but do not go far enough to overhaul a system that has long been shrouded in secrecy. “The United States likes to brag about freedom and stick its nose up at other countries where people’s rights are restricted.
But we need to look in the mirror,” said Rebecca Cokley, a disability rights activist. “As horrific as Britney Spears’s case is, people with less privilege have it much worse.”
Spears, 39, told the court last week that she felt the legal arrangement put in place in 2008 was abusive. The Stronger singer said she had been forced to take the drug lithium against her will and had been prevented from marrying and removing a contraceptive device so she could try to have a baby.
Earlier this week a judge denied a request to remove Britney Spears’s father from her conservatorship.
Last year, Bessemer Trust was approved by Los Angeles superior court judge Brenda Penny to be added as co-conservator of Spears.
The financial firm said it had not taken any steps regarding Spears’ assets, or received any fees, because it was awaiting additional court documents that authorized it to act. Those filings were made on Wednesday.
In a petition to the court on Thursday, Bessemer Trust asked the judge to approve its resignation from the case, citing “changed circumstances” including “the fact that the Conservatee claimed irreparable harm to her interests”.
Last year, Britney Spears began the legal process of trying to remove her father from any role in her business affairs.
Jamie Spears was appointed as a conservator of his daughter’s affairs in 2008 after she was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.
The conservatorship has been the subject of a vocal campaign by fans with the #FreeBritney social media hashtag.
Conservatorships are a form of court-appointed guardianship that give licensed conservators or family members the authority to make major decisions on behalf of people deemed incapacitated and incapable of managing their own affairs. That can include controlling people’s finances and healthcare.
An estimated 1.3 million US adults are subject to guardianship, and advocates say the system is opaque with little monitoring or data and allegations of abuse are common. The legal arrangement is most common for elderly people, but also often affects people with mental disabilities and homeless people.