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Conservatorship 101: When It’s Needed and How It Works in Tennessee

what is conservatorship

In life, there comes a time when families must confront tough decisions about their loved one’s health and well-being.

And for those with relatives suffering from conditions like dementia, mental illness, or severe disabilities, a conservatorship may feel like the next step.

At Pickford Law, we are dedicated to helping families navigate life’s important decisions with compassion.

As reputable estate planning lawyers, our mission is to provide unwavering support to families facing challenges related to conservatorship. Whether you seek to appoint a guardian, explore alternatives to conservatorship, or modify existing arrangements, our team is here to advocate for your loved ones’ well-being and protect their best interests.

Contact Pickford Law today so we can help you address your conservatorship matters.

What is Conservatorship?

A conservatorship is essentially a court giving decision-making power to someone else, a conservator, to handle affairs for an incapacitated person aged 18 or over. The conservator can be a trusted family member, friend or even an outside professional or agency.

The key thing is that the court has determined this adult is no longer fully capable of making important decisions in areas like medical care or managing money. So they appoint a conservator to do so on their behalf.

It doesn’t strip away all their freedoms – just specific responsibilities the court deems necessary for that person’s well-being. The conservator only has authority in approved areas, like finances or healthcare choices.

But courts don’t just immediately jump to conservatorship. It’s viewed as a last resort in Tennessee if no other less-restrictive option will suffice like a power of attorney. Conservatorship limits the person’s independence, so it’s avoided unless there’s no other way to properly care for and safeguard the incapacitated adult.

Who Can Serve as Conservator?

In Tennessee, just about any responsible adult can technically petition the court to become a conservator for an incapacitated person. But, the judge makes the ultimate call on who actually gets appointed based on what’s best for the disabled individual.

The courts do have an order of priority they consider though. If the incapacitated person previously named a desired conservator in writing, that holds a lot of weight. Otherwise, preference typically goes in this order:

  1. The person’s spouse
  2. One of their children
  3. Their closest blood relative(s)
  4. A state public guardian
  5. Someone else, like a close friend or outside party

So, while you can volunteer, the courts are going to lean towards appointing people with the closest ties to the incapacitated person first.

The Conservatorship Appointment Process

Because conservatorships strip away a lot of decision-making powers, it’s not something courts award lightly. It’s a lengthy legal process to get appointed.

First, someone has to file a detailed petition explaining why conservatorship is truly necessary and in the person’s best interests. The incapacitated adult and their close family get notified about these proceedings.

The judge will even appoint an independent third-party attorney called a “guardian ad litem” to investigate the situation and report back neutral findings.

There’s a hearing where you have to prove no less restrictive option would suffice besides conservatorship. The court has to consider all alternatives first before taking this serious step.

If the judge does grant conservatorship after all that, they’ll decide if you’re a suitable person for the role based on evidence and testimony. You’ll be given a court order explaining exactly what decision-making powers you have as the conservator.

Types of Conservatorships in Tennessee

Tennessee has different categories of conservatorship depending on what areas of the incapacitated adult’s life need supervision. Here are the main two types:

Conservatorship of the Person

With this arrangement, the court gives the conservator authority to make personal, non-financial decisions for the disabled individual. Things like:

  • Where they will live (home, assisted living facility, etc.)
  • What doctors or medical specialists will provide their treatment
  • Their daily care, nutrition, and safety needs

The conservator essentially has the legal power to make choices about the person’s living situation, healthcare, and general well-being when they cannot make sound judgments themselves.

Conservatorship of the Estate

On the flip side, this type of conservatorship grants the conservator control over the disabled person’s finances, assets, and estate matters. They would have responsibilities like:

  • Managing bank accounts and investments
  • Paying bills and taxes
  • Making investment and spending decisions with their money
  • Selling or transferring real estate/property if needed

The conservator of the estate is legally authorized to oversee the disabled person’s funds, properties, and overall financial life when they lack capacity in that area.

In some cases, the court may determine it’s necessary to appoint a conservator over both the person’s personal matters and their estate. This grants full decision-making authority to the conservator for all aspects of the incapacitated individual’s life when they cannot make responsible choices independently.

Contact Pickford Law Today

Making decisions about conservatorship is an important and often emotional journey for families. Understanding the various types of conservatorship empowers you to choose the best path for your loved one’s well-being and future.

When facing these critical choices, the guidance of a compassionate and experienced conservatorship lawyer can be invaluable.

At Pickford Law, we are dedicated to helping families navigate life’s important decisions with utmost care and professionalism. Our attorneys are ready to provide sound legal advice, advocate for your loved ones’ best interests, and ensure the conservatorship process is smooth and well-considered.

Contact Pickford Law today to schedule your consultation.

Author Bio

Shalondra Grandberry Pickford

Shalondra Grandberry Pickford is a highly skilled attorney and the founder of Pickford Law. Her legal practice is committed to representing clients on various legal matters, including social security disability, veterans’ disability, estate planning, and personal injury. With over ten years of experience in law and a license to practice in Tennessee and Arkansas, Shalondra is committed to providing personalized and effective legal representation to each client.

Shalondra received her Juris Doctorate from The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and is a member of the Tennessee and Arkansas State Bar Associations. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including the exclusive Rising Stars award from Super Lawyers in 2017 and again in 2022.

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