TN Bar Association Wants Changes in Conservatorship Law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state lawyers group is recommending changes in state law governing conservatorships.
Courts can appoint conservators to handle affairs of people a judge deems incapable of making their own decisions. Under a conservatorship, a person’s right to make health care, financial and other personal decisions can be stripped away.
The Tennessean ( reported the Tennessee Bar Association met during the weekend and approved recommendations to the legislature. Among them is a provision for placing a person in a conservatorship on an emergency basis. The period of an emergency conservatorship would be no more than 60 days and a hearing would be held within five days.
The emergency plan is one of 16 recommendations approved by the bar.
The recommendations come after a series of hearings conducted by a panel of the bar association. At a Sept. 20 hearing in Nashville, several people testified all of their assets disappeared after conservatorships were established for them.
The bar group decided to make recommendations after the Legislature considered a series of changes to the law last session. Lawmakers passed two changes. One requires that a proposed conservator reveal whether he or she was a criminal record. The other requires disclosure of any relationship with the person being conserved.
The bar panel concluded there needs to be more public education about the conservatorship process.
Jackson attorney Pam Wright said the proposed changed would bring Tennessee statute into closer conformity with a national model law and include protecting rights of those being conserved.
“The existing law does not have enough specificity,” Wright said.
Among recommended changes are making it easier for a person being placed in a conservatorship to appeal the process and get separate legal representation.
Nashville resident Jewell Tinnon lost her home, her car and all her belongings in a contested conservatorship case.
She said she had not heard about the proposed changes, but had only one question about them.
“If they change it (the law), when will I get my stuff back?” she asked.
Tinnon lives in public housing not far from the house that was auctioned off to pay bills.

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