A conservatorship is established when a court-appointed person or entity (the conservator) becomes responsible for making decisions on behalf of another adult person who is deemed to have a disability. Sometimes the decision making powers conferred upon the conservator can be financial, medical or both. The decisions by the conservator must be made in the best interests of the individual with the disability. The conservatorship must be established through the courts and the Tennessee legislature has set out rules and procedures which must be followed in order to obtain a conservatorship. The court, and likely a court-appointed guardian ad litem, will look at several factors in determining whether a particular person is qualified to serve as conservator, including the needs of the individual with the disability, the relationship of the proposed conservator to the disabled person, the trustworthiness and character of the proposed conservator and the plan presented by the proposed conservator to care for the disabled individual. The court will often seek confirmation from medical professionals as to the disability of the individual for who a conservatorship is being sought. Representation by an experienced attorney is extremely helpful in navigating the process of obtaining a conservatorship.
A guardianship is similar to a conservatorship, however, it relates to the court-approved care and protection of a minor child. A guardianship becomes necessary when parental rights have been terminated or a minor child’s parents have passed away and the court has to appoint a guardian for the child. Another example would be where a limited guardianship becomes necessary when a minor child has acquired an interest in real or personal property through the estate of a deceased parent or relative. Like a conservatorship, a guardianship requires court approval via a set of established rules and procedure.