Following a year long series of public hearings throughout the state and the solicitation of public input, Governor Haslam signed Senate Bill No. 555 making significant changes to the Tennessee Conservatorship Laws.
The Guardian and Conservator laws were all but re-written in 1992 with significant changes taking effect in January 1993, and the most recent changes that became effective July 1, 2013 include both minor revisions to those laws and some major changes which are intended to improve the process and protect the person whose rights are being affected.
The biggest change involves a new procedure for the appointment of an “Emergency Guardian or Emergency Conservator” when the procedures required for court appointment could result in substantial harm to the health, safety and welfare of a minor or adult with a disability, and a procedure for the appointment of an “Expedited Limited Healthcare Fiduciary” when a minor or adult with a disability is already hospitalized and needs to be transferred or discharged. In both of those situations, a hearing must be held within five (5) day and whoever is appointed by the Court is only given authority to act for sixty (60) days, and strict compliance must be followed or the proceeding will be dismissed and the authority to act terminated.
Other significant changes include specifically identifying the rights to be removed from a person with a disability and transferred to a Conservator or Conservators, such as the right to possess a valid driver’s license, enter into contracts, dispose of personal and/or real property, make end of life decisions, authorize disclosure of confidential information, consent or withhold consent for admission to a hospital or to any residential/custodial facility, just to name a few, all of which must be specifically set forth in any Court Order removing and transferring those rights. Changes to the Notice requirements regarding who must be notified of the proceeding before a hearing can be held has been changed, as well as the provisions regarding annual Accountings that must be filed with the Court after a Conservator is appointed. If you have a family member that could be the subject of a Conservatorship proceeding or have any questions regarding any of these changes in the laws, please call or email Sharon Potter or Kevin Dean.