Intro to Conservatorships

Posted by Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC on December 23, 2021

This blog begins with an overview of conservatorships. Conservatorships can be very involved and detailed, and we know that many people may have questions regarding them. Also, conservatorship laws are generally similar from one state to the next, but the terminology could be different. Our Nashville conservatorship lawyers can help you understand everything you need to know about conservatorships.

Tennessee Conservatorships vs. Guardianships

In Tennessee, a “guardianship” is for someone under 18, and a “conservatorship” is for someone 18 or over. Both are essentially the same thing with a distinction in age. In some states, age is not an issue, and both situations are called guardianships.

A conservatorship is a court process. It is not something that can be done without the court’s involvement. The process starts with someone filing a petition with the court asserting that person (we will refer to the “person” as the “ward” – that is what the person is called after the conservatorship is created) cannot make decisions for him/herself.

Types of Conservatorships

There are two types of conservatorships. Sometimes you have one and not the other. But, in most situations, you have both types. One type is the conservatorship over the person. The other type of conservatorship is over the finances. Again, it is very common to find that if a person is incompetent to make decisions in one of those areas, he/she is also incompetent to make decisions in the other area.

How is a Conservatorship Decided?

You are likely wondering how a court determines if a person is competent or not. It all starts, and pretty much stops, with a doctor’s report. As part of the court conservatorship proceedings, a doctor’s report is required. The report must be based on a recent examination by the doctor. If the person is unwilling to submit to the doctor’s examination, the court can order it. If the doctor’s report states that the person is competent and not in need of the conservatorship, then the matter is essentially over. No conservatorship will be created for the person.

If the doctor’s report indicates that the person is incapacitated and needs a conservatorship, the next step is for the court to determine who should serve in that role. The court will appoint a local independent attorney not involved in the matter to act as the “guardian ad litem.” The guardian ad litem will interview people involved with the person and make a report to the court.

The report will first determine whether a conservatorship is needed. Second, the report will then state if a conservatorship is needed for personal decisions, financial, or both. Lastly, the guardian ad litem’s report will identify the person (or organization) best suited to act as the conservatorship. It is possible to have different conservators – one for the person and another for the finances.

If a conservatorship is granted, many of the person’s rights are taken away. The conservator of the person has the ability to direct where the ward lives and make decisions about the ward’s medical care. A conservator of the finances is in charge of managing the person’s finances and paying the ward’s bills.

Learn More About Establishing a Conservatorship

If you believe a loved one requires a conservatorship, you’ll need the right assistance to help you through this process. At Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC, we’ve helped many clients in need of conservatorships in Nashville and the surrounding areas. We can answer any questions you have about starting a conservatorship for your loved one.

Contact us today to get help from a conservatorship attorney at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC, and follow along with our blog to learn more.

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