What is a conservatorship and what does it mean for your money?

A conservator has the legal right to the oversee financial affairs of someone else

"Conservatorship" is a bit of a buzz word right now considering the drama surrounding Britney Spears and her father.

While scuffles over finances are nothing new when it comes to stars and their families, the case begs the question: What exactly is a conservatorship?

Essentially, a conservatorship exists when a guardian of sorts -- known as a conservator -- is appointed to oversee the financial affairs, and sometimes daily life, of another person, the conservatee.

They are put in place in the courts due to someone's inability to oversee their affairs themselves, be it because of disability, age or something else entirely.

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Britney Spears is currently under a conservatorship in California. (Digital composition with images from Getty Images)

Corporations and organizations, such as banks, can also serve as conservators.

In Spears' case, her father has served as conservator for the majority of the time she's been under the conservatorship, which began in 2008 after her public meltdown. He stepped down temporarily in 2019 and the singer's care manager, Jodi Montgomery, temporarily took over.

In November 2020, a judge declined to suspend Jamie from his role as conservator despite requests from the pop star that he be blocked. Furthermore, the star's attorney alleged that Spears is "afraid of her father" and "will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career."

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Entertainment Tonight reports that the conservatorship has been extended until at least September 2021.

According to Forbes, conservatorships like Spears' can place strict limitations on the conservatee, including whether or not they can get married or even drive a car.

In fact, a conservatorship is a relatively rare move for the courts to make considering the harsh restrictions that can be placed on the conservatee. It's most often used in the case of aging adults suffering from dementia and the like, the outlet reports.

In November 2020, a judge declined to suspend Spears' father, Jamie, from his role as conservator despite requests from the pop star that he be blocked. (Photo by J. Merritt/Getty Images for GLAAD)

In addition to such aspects of a conservatee's daily life, a conservator also can also oversee finances.

In 2016, the New York Times reported that in Spears' case, "her most mundane purchases, from a drink at Starbucks to a song on iTunes, are tracked in court documents as part of the plan to safeguard the great fortune she has earned but does not ultimately control."

This is, of course, only one example, but it displays the depths to which a conservatorship can stretch, possibly leaving a conservatee all but cut off from their own finances.

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Hearings are held in court to discuss the state of the conservatorship in which requests for various changes can be filed, such as Spears' reported request that her father not be reinstated as her sole conservator.

The Associated Press contributed to this report