Conservatorship is a legal process in which a court grants authority to an individual or group of individuals to make certain specific decisions for someone who is unable to make such decisions themselves. Parents, for example, are empowered by law with making decisions for their minor children and all parents do this on a regular basis. When the child reaches adulthood, the law gives him or her the absolute right to make those decisions themselves. Sometimes, unfortunately, they are, because of various disabilities, unable to do so. In these cases, Conservatorship should be considered as a means of providing the disabled person with assistance and protection. This can be especially true regarding such matters as medical treatment, medications, hospitalization and surgery or other therapies but it can involve other things, such as residential and other services and education, as well.
Without a conservatorship, the law assumes a person who reaches the age of 18 has the ability to make all decisions for themselves. Oftentimes, we hear of families having difficulties “consenting” or making decisions for medical care, or IEP decisions in a school or other placement setting, when parents lose the legal right to make decisions for their child who has turned 18 years old. Because of the special needs of individuals with certain intellectual or developmental disabilities, special care must be taken to ensure the court order is properly worded. All decision-making authority, which is not specifically granted to a conservator in the court order, remains with the disabled person.
At the Special Needs Law Center, we have worked with thousands of families all over the State of Tennessee to ensure their Conservatorship Orders have appropriate authority to suit their families individuals needs. We also work to avoid ongoing paperwork and reporting burdens for our clients, which some other Conservatorship Orders require.
Why can’t my family member just sign a Power of Attorney?
Wills, Living Wills and Powers of Attorney must be signed by a person who is competent to understand what they are doing at the time that they sign them. If a court determines that they were incompetent at the time of signing, the Will or other instrument is invalid.