When you are appointed as conservator for a disabled person, the legal name that the court calls the disabled person is the "ward."
A question that Attorney Meredith Silva's clients often ask is whether they are financially responsible for the the ward's bills and whether they would be personally liable for the ward's debts when they become conservator.
The answer is no. As a conservator, you are responsible for paying the ward's bills with the ward's money. You are not obligated nor expected to use any of your money to pay for the ward's expenses or bills. Also, as long as you do not do something such as co-sign a loan, lease etc - if you are simply acting in the capacity as a Conservator - you are not liable for the ward's debts.
What are my responsibilities once I become a Conservator?
The Court will issue an order of conservatorship in which they will tell you what continuing duties you have to the Court. Some of the responsibilities you may be ordered to fulfill as conservator are filing an annual status report, obtaining a bond, filing accounting and property management plans. These tasks are described below. The Conservator must also ask permission from the Court to perform certain specific tasks, such as to sell real property belonging to the ward.
Annual Status Report: As a Conservator, you are required to file an annual status report letting the court know where the ward is living and whether or not the ward still needs a conservator. It is a simple form that you complete once a year.
Annual Accounting: Also, if the ward has assets, you will likely be required to file an annual accounting, which is a report in which you show the court what expenses you paid on the ward's behalf and what income the ward had. You are required to show bank statements and provide copies of checks. The Court reviews the report to make sure the all of the ward's assets were used for the ward's benefit. An elder law attorney can assist you with the annual accounting.
Property Management Plan: When you first become a conservator, you are required to submit a property management plan to the Court, letting the Court know how you plan to spend or invest the ward's money. If, upon the filing of the annual accounting, the plan has changed, you are required to file a new property management plan.
Bond: If the ward has assets, you are required to secure a bond which is a type of insurance policy that protects the ward should the conservator abscond with the funds or make some other fiduciary mistake that jeopardizes the ward's assets. This bond has to be secured yearly and the conservator is generally permitted to use the ward's money to secure the bond.
Are there any agencies that will help educate or assist me as a conservator?
In Davidson County, the Office of Conservatorship Management helps conservators by providing or directing to resources that are available to promote successful conservatorships. Their website also has educational videos with training for conservators.
The Office of Conservatorship Management's website is Educational Videos | Office of Conservatorship Management (nashville.gov) and their phone number is 615-880-3355.
The Conservatorship Association of Tennessee is a membership organization of people who are concerned about the quality of services for the increasing number of vulnerable Tennesseans who need assistance in decision-making. Membership is open to conservators and anyone else interested in improving the lives of Tennesseans who may need conservatorship or guardianship services. Their website includes additional educational material and the Association serves as a resource for families and individuals with disabilities. Their website is CATENN – Conservatorship Association of Tennessee and their email address is email@example.com
National Guardianship Association
Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability
Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
When can I file for conservatorship of my child with disabilities?
Conservatorship Attorney Meredith Silva assists parents who have autistic children or children with other disabilities gain conservatorship over their children to ensure that they can continue to legally care for them once they become adults. Parents need the legal power to do things such as apply for SSI on their child's behalf and to make their medical and financial decisions and a conservatorship is the legal way to get these powers. A motion for conservatorship of a disabled child turning 18 can be scheduled on the court docket no sooner than the child's 18th birthday. I encourage parents to speak with me a few months before their child's birthday so that we can get the conservatorship process started and get the conservatorship ordered as soon as their child turns 18.
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