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Attorney Randy Ratliff

Conservatorships

Elder Law Attorney Compassionately Guiding Nashville Residents

Often, elderly people suffer from declining health. In addition to engaging in estate planning activities, such as creating a durable power of attorney for health care and a living will, it may become necessary for the court to appoint a conservator. A conservatorship is a court-approved and supervised relationship between a conservator who is competent and an adult who needs help with finances, decision-making, and other matters. If you are interested in pursuing a conservatorship, you should contact Nashville conservatorship lawyer Randy Ratliff.

Understanding How Conservatorships Function

Conservators are appointed by a court to handle financial decisions, medical decisions, or both for a disabled or incapacitated adult. While conservatorships are often used for the elderly, they can also be appropriate for someone with a temporary disability or someone with a mental illness that leaves them unable to care for themselves.

The first step in creating a conservatorship is filing a petition for the protection of the disabled person in probate court. The court will need to evaluate whether the individual is actually disabled and whether appointing a conservator is the least restrictive alternative to protect the disabled person in terms of their health or finances. A disabled person is one who needs supervision, protection, and help due to a physical or mental incapacity.

In order to show that there is a need for a conservator, the petitioner is supposed to file a doctor's report stating that there is such a need for the disabled person's welfare. The court appoints a "guardian ad litem" to investigate the facts that have given rise to the petition. The guardian ad litem will review the disabled person's medical and financial records and conduct interviews, and then they will provide a report to the court on the need or non-need for a conservator. A conservatorship attorney can advise Nashville residents on what the report should contain.

A hearing is held by the court. The court evaluates the evidence to decide whether the disabled person needs protection as the petition claims. The court is supposed to determine whether the person for whom a conservatorship is requested has the ability to make decisions in their own best interests. A conservator is appointed if they cannot make such a decision.

When deciding who will be appointed as conservator, the court is supposed to consider the best interests of the disabled person. The petitioner may be appointed as the conservator if this is in the disabled person's best interests. In some cases, an individual designates a health care agent in their living will or another estate planning instrument. In that case, the person whom the individual named will be considered first as a possible conservator. Otherwise, the court looks at whether there are family members such as a spouse to take this role. When there are no family members available, the court will turn to an unrelated person, such as a public guardian or an attorney. A Nashville conservatorship attorney can help you advocate for an appropriate conservator.

An appointed conservator has certain powers and rights. They can pay bills, apply for benefits such as Medicaid or Medicare, give informed consent for medical care, execute legal documents like nursing home contracts, and make end-of-life decisions, such as whether the individual should stay on life support. The conservatorship is supposed to be framed so that it is the least restrictive to the disabled person for whom a conservator has been appointed.

What if the circumstances of a disabled individual change? Or what if the conservator is found to have acted inappropriately? An interested person can ask the court to have a conservatorship modified or terminated. The court is supposed to hear evidence and testimony, and it will conduct a trial to decide whether termination or modification is warranted.

Consult a Skillful Conservatorship Lawyer in the Nashville Area

Whether you are an elderly person who does not want a conservator, or you are a person who believes that a loved one needs a conservator, you should consult an experienced elder law attorney. Randy Ratliff may be able to advise you or represent you in connection with conservatorships in Tennessee. He represents people throughout Davidson and Williamson Counties, including in Brentwood, Goodlettsville, Joelton, Franklin, Cool Springs, Antioch, Hermitage, and Madison. Contact us by calling 615-656-8282 or using our online form.