When faced with providing care for individuals who suffer from mental illness, dementia, or physical or developmental disabilities, some families and friends find that their loved ones are not capable of making good decisions for themselves. The loved one may be unable to manage his or her own life, yet he or she may refuse to take necessary steps to turn over legal, financial, and health care decisions to a more capable person. In this situation, conservatorship may be the only option to protect the vulnerable loved one from financial predators or from care choices which endanger his or her health.

Conservatorship is a court procedure by which an adult’s legal rights are removed due to his or her inability to make sound legal, medical, and financial decisions for him or herself. A court-appointed person or organization is assigned to manage the conservatee’s finances, care, or both.  Conservatorship must be court-ordered and is based on medical proof, such as physical or psychological evaluations, as well as lay witness testimony describing the individual’s inability to care for him or herself. Any interested party (not just a relative) can petition the court for conservatorship.  The court may appoint a Public Guardian, friend, neighbor, church member, attorney, social worker, nurse, or other qualified individual to serve as conservator. The court can, and often does, set reasonable fees to compensate the conservator for services rendered.

Though sometimes necessary, obtaining conservatorship is not an easy process. The interested party is essentially suing the incapable person. The process can be adversarial, expensive, and public, not to mention time-consuming and emotionally draining. And getting the conservatorship set up is only the beginning. The legal proceedings will typically continue for duration of the conservatee’s life.  There are many challenging dynamics to consider, and the would-be conservator needs to be prepared to implement a well-developed plan as soon as the court makes a decision.

With a team of experienced legal and care professionals on staff, Elder Law of East Tennessee is equipped to help people through the process of conservatorship:  not just the legal nitty-gritty, but also the emotional challenges of the court process and everything that comes after.  Making financial and medical decisions on behalf of another person can be stressful, but Elder Law of East Tennessee is there to help relieve the burden.  If a loved one clearly needs the protection of conservatorship but no one in the family is able to serve as conservator, we can find a qualified professional to serve.  Whatever the family’s needs and circumstances are, we have options.

If you think your loved one requires a court-ordered conservatorship, Elder Law of East Tennessee can help. We will walk you through the court proceedings, guide you through difficult decisions, and advocate for the legal protection of you and your loved one. Get in touch by phone or e-mail to get started today.