In the majority of cases, it’s a biological parent (or parents) who will apply to become their child’s legal conservator when they turn 18. But even parents will ask us if they are able to appoint an “alternate conservator” or someone else who can help with all required responsibilities and duties. Most commonly, we are asked by parents of individuals with special needs if they can appoint one of their other adult children, a stepparent, a sibling, a grandparent, or other relative to serve as co-conservator who could have the same legal rights as the main conservator.
Legally speaking, having a co-conservator is absolutely possible, and it’s something we often consider to help lighten the load. However, the parent or main conservator cannot appoint this person themselves. Instead, the candidate will need to go through a formal legal process with the Tennessee courts where they will petition to serve as a co-conservator. During this process, the court will need to verify that the person is indeed capable of serving in this capacity, and from there, a judge will ultimately approve or deny the request.
When we meet with families to start the process of filing for a conservator over a young adult with special needs, we will typically ask up front if the main candidate for conservatorship wants someone else to serve in a co-conservator role. In general, it’s easier and less expensive to take care of everything all at one time. The bottom line is that every family is different, and it’s important to work with an attorney who will help you create an individualized plan that actually works over the long haul.
Here at the Graceful Aging Legal Services, we want parents and caregivers to feel as secure and supported in their roles as possible, as that ultimately results in the best care for the person with special needs. If you have questions about how to create a Special Needs Plan that takes into account the unique dynamics or challenges in your family, please feel free to contact us at (615) 846–6201 to schedule an appointment.