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Temporary vs. Permanent Conservatorships 

Brazil Clark, PLLC Sept. 30, 2022

Conservatorships in Tennessee can be temporary (emergency) and permanent, but many people do not understand the difference between the two. If you are considering placing your family member or friend under a conservatorship, you need to understand your options.  

The conservatorship attorneys at Brazil Clark, PLLC can help you figure out the best arrangement tailored to your unique circumstances. Attorney Frank Brazil helps clients in Nashville, Tennessee, and throughout Rutherford County handle all of their conservatorship needs.  

What Is a Conservatorship?  

Conservatorship, which is generally referred to as “guardianship” in other states, refers to a court order that allows an individual to manage another person’s affairs due to their disability. A conservatorship may be necessary when a person cannot make medical, financial, and/or legal decisions on their own because of their mental or physical incapacity.  

Conservatorships must be based on medical proof, including evaluations of the person’s physical, mental, or psychological health, as well as witness testimony. Tennessee law recognizes two types of conservatorships: temporary and permanent.  

What Is a Temporary Conservatorship?  

A temporary conservatorship is commonly referred to as an emergency conservatorship. As the name suggests, this type of conservatorship is appropriate in emergency situations. Common reasons courts award an emergency conservatorship include: 

  • The person poses a danger to themselves. If an adult poses a risk to himself or herself, the court is likely to grant an emergency conservatorship to prevent bodily harm or death.  

  • The person is unable to make important decisions because of a disability. A temporary conservatorship may be awarded if there is proof that the person lacks the mental or physical capacity to make important decisions on their own.  

  • The person’s disability is temporary. If the person’s disability is deemed to be temporary and the person is expected to recover and regain their capacity to manage their affairs on their own, a temporary conservatorship may be the appropriate option.  

A temporary (emergency) conservatorship may also be appropriate in other situations. You may want to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to figure out what type of conservatorship you need in your unique case.  

What Is a Permanent Conservatorship?  

A permanent conservatorship is usually awarded when a person with a disability is unlikely to regain their capacity to take care of themselves and make major decisions on their own in the foreseeable future or for the rest of their life. A permanent conservatorship may be necessary when the ward (the person who cannot handle their affairs on their own) suffers from: 

  • Mental illness 

  • Chronic drug use 

  • Physical disability 

  • Traumatic brain injury 

  • Developmental disability 

A permanent conservatorship can be either full or limited. A full conservatorship gives the conservator complete control over the ward’s financial, legal, and medical decisions. Limited conservatorships, on the other hand, give the conservator control over certain matters, while the ward retains control over the remaining matters.  

What Are the Roles of a Conservator?  

Any interested party can request a conservatorship in Tennessee. The scope of the conservatorship depends on whether the court grants temporary or permanent and full or limited conservatorship. Generally, the conservator has the following duties: 

  • Protection of the ward’s safety. One of the essential duties of a conservator is to ensure the ward’s safety. This is especially true in situations where wards pose a danger to themselves.  

  • Make important decisions for the ward. Depending on the arrangement granted by the court, a conservator may have the authority to make important decisions on behalf of the ward. Thus, the conservator may be responsible for handling the ward’s financial, medical, and/or legal affairs.  

  • Act in the ward’s best interests. The conservator must act in good faith and in the best interests of the ward.  

If you are considering requesting a conservatorship or have been appointed to serve as someone’s conservator, you may need legal assistance from a knowledgeable attorney to understand your duties, obligations, and limitations.   

What Steps Should I Take to Become a Conservator?  

If you believe that your family member or friend is in need of a temporary or permanent conservatorship because of the lack of capacity to make responsible decisions, there are certain steps you should take to become a conservator: 

  1. Talk to a conservatorship attorney. Before you petition the court for a conservatorship, you may want to consult with an experienced attorney to explore your options. Your attorney will help you gather the necessary documentation and prepare a petition for establishing a conservatorship.  

  1. File a petition for conservatorship. Once you gather the necessary documentation, including medical proof of the ward’s incapacity, file a petition with the court in the county where the ward resides.  

  1. Wait for the court’s decision. When reviewing your petition, the court will consider the presented evidence to determine whether it is appropriate to grant conservatorship. If the petition is approved, the court will issue letters of conservatorship showing that the conservator has the authority to act on behalf of the ward.  

If you are considering becoming a conservator, you may want to speak with a knowledgeable attorney to discuss what steps to take to establish a conservatorship in your specific case.  

Get Trusted Legal Advice Today   

If you are considering petitioning for conservatorship, contact Attorney Frank Brazil. The conservatorship attorneys at Brazil Clark, PLLC can help you through the petitioning process and ensure that you and your loved ones avoid unnecessary complications. If you are in Nashville, Tennessee, contact Brazil Clark, PLLC to get immediate and trusted guidance.