What is a conservator?
A conservator is a person appointed by the court to provide partial or full supervision, protection and assistance to the person or property, or both, of a disabled person. To be appointed as conservator for someone else, the court must be convinced that the person for whom the conservatorship is being sought is incapable of handling his or her personal business affairs.
A disabled individual must be examined by a physician or psychologist not more than ninety days prior to the filing of the petition for conservatorship. If the disabled individual refuses to be examined under some circumstances, the court can and will order the respondent to submit to an examination by a physician or psychologist identified in the petition.
As a general rule with very few exceptions, our law firm will not file a conservatorship petition until we have received a medical examination report from a physician or psychologist.
A guardian ad litem is a licensed Tennessee lawyer (if available in the county) that is appointed by the court to impartially investigate and determine certain facts and explain to the disabled person the petition, the nature of the proceedings, their right to protest the petition, whether the proposed conservator is appropriate for the position, physical and mental capabilities of the disabled person, and generally the nature and extent of the disabled person’s property and examination and report of any property management plan.
Generally, a hearing date will be set within ten days to three weeks after the petition is filed. If a life-threatening situation is at hand, the petition may be heard as soon as the convenience of the court permits. Otherwise, the minimum time is seven days from the date of notification.
Any “interested person” can bring the petition for appointment of a guardian and/or conservator. The priority set forth in the law is as follows:
1. The person or persons designated in a writing signed by the alleged disabled person (e.g. a power of attorney);
2. The spouse of the disabled person;
3. Any child of the disabled person;
4. Closest relatives of the disabled person; and
5. Other persons.
Actions for a conservatorship must be brought in the county of the disabled person’s legal residence or domicile. It does not matter that they were placed in a nursing home or other residential facility in another county.
Yes. The conservator may be compensated for his or her time as part of the property management plan approved by the court. All fees, including a conservator’s fees, must be approved by the court before being paid from the disabled person’s assets.
As a general rule, the answer is yes. However, there are exceptions to this rule subject to the approval by the court. In some instances where the value of the disabled person’s assets is less than $10,000.00, then no bond will be required, unless the court requires it. There are other exceptions to the requirement of a bond.
A conservator may not sell the real property of a disabled person without a court order or as a part of a court approved property management plan.
Absolutely not. If you are appointed a conservator, then you are in a strict fiduciary relationship with the disabled person. You will owe a duty of loyalty and fidelity to that person and you must keep the disabled person’s property and assets separated from your own.
How much does a conservatorship cost?
Generally speaking, the cost breakdown is at our firm is:
$250.00 Court filing fee
$500.00 – $1,000.00 Guardian Ad Litem fee
$2,000.00 Attorneys’ fees
$0 – $500.00 Medical examination & report
Total: Approximately $3,000.00 – $4,000.00
Can I pay for the conservatorship from the disabled person’s money?
Generally, yes but only with court approval. If our attorneys require payment of upfront costs or fees in a conservatorship, these must be paid from our client’s own funds. Upon court approval, these costs or fees may be reimbursed to our client from the disabled person’s funds.
Could I be personally held responsible for the costs of bringing the conservatorship petition?
Yes, under limited circumstances. If the disabled person’s property totals less than $2,000.00 or if the court disallows reimbursement of costs and fees from the disabled person’s funds, then you, the petitioner, will be responsible for all the costs.