We often help people file conservatorships for loved ones, which as you may know from this post. Today, we want to address the next steps after filing the petition, which is working with the Guardian ad Litem and attending the hearing on your petition. Hearings are usually held between 45 and 60 days after filing your petition.
The Guardian ad Litem is a special attorney appointed by the Court to answer two main questions.
1. Does the person you are trying to establish a conservatorship for really need someone to help them make and carry out decisions?
2. If so, who is the best person to serve as a conservator?
The Guardian ad Litem will file a report with the Court Clerk letting the Judge know what they think at least three days before the hearing.
On the hearing date, you should plan to attend court. If there are disagreements over whether a conservator is needed or who should serve, make arrangements to take the entire day off work or other obligations. Otherwise, your attorney will help you determine how much time to allow for your court hearing.
If the Guardian ad Litem has recommended a conservatorship for your loved one and that you should be appointed, the hearing will usually go quickly, with minimal testimony. Your attorney will make a statement about the case and the Guardian ad Litem will chime in with their opinion. You may be asked a few questions about your qualifications to serve, similar to the information that was in your petition.
The Judge will either sign an Order that your attorney has prepared before the hearing or agree that your attorney will submit one for signature. After the Judge signs the Order, your attorney will help you get Letters of Conservatorship, which we will address in a future blog post.
If you believe that someone you care about needs a conservatorship, please feel free to reach out to us by email or phone. If you believe a loved one is in need of a conservatorship, please reach out to our office by phone at (615) 846-6201, by email at email@example.com or you can schedule a complimentary call with us here!
One concern I frequently hear is worry that the government will take assets from a loved one or take assets from an estate instead of family members inheriting it. These are valid concerns because there are specific instances where this can happen, but as a general rule, the government DOES NOT take assets unless they have a legal reason for doing so. The usual reasons is if someone received Medicaid (TennCare) to pay for long term care, if they owed back taxes, or if no family members can be located. But, as a general rule, the State of Tennessee is not going to take your assets.
The State of Tennessee has a statute that lays out how your assets will pass if you die without a will. Your assets will pass to what we call your heirs at law. Those are really the people that you probably think of as your closest relatives: your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your parents, your siblings, your nieces and nephews, your cousins, and farther out. But it’s those close relatives.
Generally, the government is going to look for anyone related to you before the government gets any money. I hope that sharing this information with you has given you a sense of relief if you were told inaccurate information elsewhere.
If you have other questions about your estate or that of a loved one, click here to schedule a call with us.
Do you remember the story of Terri Schiavo? While her situation was unfortunate, it sparked a conversation among families around the country. What would you want in a medical emergency? And who do you want to make decisions for you?
An Advanced Directive allows you to make medical decisions in advance of an emergency and name an agent to carry them out. It is also called a Living Will. An Advance Directive lets you tell your family and medical providers what is important for your quality of life. It’s important to let your loved ones know if you would want to continue medical treatments or not in the event that your quality of life decreases significantly. Your doctors will ask about your Advance Directive if you are unable to make decisions or communicate for yourself.
If you have to go to the hospital for any reason you have probably been asked if you have an Advance Directive or Living Will. While it’s important to have your wishes in writing, it’s even more important to to educate and prepare your loved ones in case they ever need to make difficult decisions about your care. Talking about your wishes with your family can assure them that they are doing the right thing by you in difficult times.
While it can be difficult to have this conversation, it is incredibly important that your family knows how you would want to be treated in an emergency situation. So please check out The Conversation Project and reach out to your loved ones to begin this conversation.
We want to remind you that it is time to request your Tennessee Absentee Ballot for the election on August 6th. Your Absentee Ballot can be requested any time now and must be postmarked before July 30th. If you meet the following requirements you are likely eligible for an Absentee Ballot:
The voter is sixty (60) years of age or older;
The voter has a physical disability and an inaccessible polling place;
The voter is hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled and because of such condition, cannot vote in person;
The voter is a caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled;
You can find more information on eligibility requirements and request your Absentee Ballot for the upcoming election here.
If you are eligible, request your ballot today and VOTE!
Is there someone you have considered leaving out of your Will? There are plenty of reasons for wanting to exclude someone, a group of people, or everyone you know from inheriting from you. Maybe you’ve had a falling out, maybe they haven’t kept in touch like you hoped, or maybe you just like animals better.
People who know me are probably tired of hearing me say it, but I believe that no one is entitled to an inheritance. Whatever you want to do with your earthly possessions is entirely up to you. There’s no wrong decision- whether you want to leave everything to your children, your church, or your dog. It’s just a personal decision, like your hairstyle (although a bit more permanent decision).
If you don’t have a Will, the law in Tennessee leaves your estate to your closest relatives. By making a Will, you can leave your assets to anyone you like. The only exception to this is that you cannot disinherit your spouse or minor children.
If you don’t want your spouse or kids to inherit because you don’t like them, I hope you will consider counseling. However, that’s another personal decision. So is divorce, which is the only way to remove your spouse’s rights to inherit from you. If you don’t like your kids, you have to wait until they turn eighteen to disinherit them.
If you want to disinherit someone, I encourage you to make it clear in your Will. If your Will goes through the probate process, the Court will look at what your intentions were. Leaving a nominal sum like $10 give rights means that the person is not truly disinherited- they inherited $10. We like to acknowledge that the person has been disinherited and, depending on the situation, a brief statement about why. We are kind but firm to reduce any confusion or potential for a contest in the future.
And remember, relationships change and so do Wills.
Today, we are breaking down the process of filing a conservatorship. A conservatorship is the legal procedure used to obtain authority to make decisions for someone else who is unable to make or carry out decisions for themselves.
First, you will want to meet with and hire an attorney. Your attorney will collect lots of information about you and the person you are seeking a conservatorship for, such as addresses, family members, financial situations, etc.
Second, your attorney will help you prepare evidence for the eventual hearing. The most important piece of evidence in most conservatorship hearings is the Report of Physician. This is a notarized document signed by the person’s doctor that they are unable to make or carry out decisions on their own and a general overview of their medical condition. While you can file for conservatorship without the Report of Physician, it is not ideal.
Third, your attorney will prepare a petition and have you sign it in front of a notary. They will then file it with the Court Clerk, along with the Report of Physician if you have one completed.
Finally, once all your paperwork has been filed with the Clerk, your attorney will work with the Court to set a hearing date. You should be prepared to work with the Judge’s schedule in order to attend. Your attorney will let you know what you can expect at your hearing. Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog where we will address conservatorship hearings.
If you believe a loved one is in need of a conservatorship, please reach out to our office at (615) 846-6201 or you can schedule a complimentary call with us here!
By adding someone else to your bank account, you are giving them an ownership interest in whatever deposits you make into the account. What I often see is that the parent is the only one making deposits, but the child is handling transactions, usually to the parent’s benefit but sometimes in a way might later be called into question.
In the process of counseling clients, I often learn that an adult child has been added to a parent’s bank account as joint owner. If this is something that you have been considering, please think again. While it can be fine under some circumstances, it can also cause problems down the road.
One danger to this is that if the adult child’s has an ownership interest in the account, and the child has unpaid debts, a creditor might try to collect the money owed to them out of the joint account, even though all the money belongs to Mom or Dad!
Another sticky point of adding a child to a bank account is if you have more than one child. Often parents want their children to inherit equally and make arrangements for that through their wills or beneficiary designations. However, most joint bank accounts include a right of survivorship on the account paperwork so that if one account owner dies, the other account owner can continue using the account and gets to keep any money in the account. If you intend for your children to inherit equally, but only one of them gets the money in your bank account, that might cause some resentments and even lawsuits.
So what should you do instead? In most cases, I recommend designating someone you trust with your money to act as your attorney-in-fact for financial matters. By signing a Power of Attorney, this person will have the ability to manage your banking transactions, but will not have an ownership interest in your accounts that could cause the problems described above.
If you’re interested in obtaining a Power of Attorney or other estate planning documents, contact us to see how we can help.
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