Under Tennessee law, all parents have decision making powers over their own minor children. In Tennessee, "guardianship" is a term used to describe the legal relationship between minors and their parents. Up until the age of eighteen, all children are under their parents' guardianship.
Once someone turns eighteen, he or she is considered to be competent and to have the ability to make the right decisions about their own lives. Even those who have intellectual or developmental disabilities have all the legal rights of adulthood when they reach the age of eighteen.
Conservatorship is a court-approved legal relationship between a competent adult (the conservator) and an adult with a disability or an adult who needs assistance making decisions (also called a ward). It's not uncommon for an elderly adult to require assistance making decisions simply because of the natural process of aging which can render them incapable of caring for themselves or making financial decisions.
In Tennessee, a conservator is someone who has been appointed by the court to provide either partial or full supervision, protection or assistance on the ward's behalf. A conservator may have limited or wide decision-making powers and the courts have the final decision and authority over those areas and these include health care, living arrangements, and/or finances, all or part of which requires conservatorship.
The conservator is an agent for the court, and the ward maintains all rights with the exception of the specific area(s) in which rights have been removed from the individual and placed with the conservator. A court's order for conservatorship is supposed to be very specific about which rights are being removed and it should be set up in such a manner where the individual's rights are preserved as much as possible and where appropriate.
Conservatorship is not a medical determination, it is technically a legal determination. While a physician, psychologist, or attorney cannot assign conservatorship over a person, the physician's statement is required in order for the court to establish incapacity. Only the court has the authority to assign one person as the conservator over another person and the court's decision shall be based on the proposed ward's incapacity to handle personal decisions, money etc.
When considering if your family member needs a conservator, you may want to evaluate the person's ability to seek medical care, understand that medical treatment may be painful, make medical appointments, make financial decisions, pay bills and taxes on time, understand the consequences of signing contracts, understand the value of money, make reasonable decisions about living arrangements, and handle legal notices.
For further information about conservatorship, please contact a Murfreesboro estate planning attorney from LaRoche Law Offices. To schedule a free consultation, please call (615) 200-9359 today!