New Conservatorship Oversight Recommended

A task force assigned to look into the increasing number of conservatorships in Davidson County has determined that there is not enough oversight and has recommended the establishment of a new office, known as the Office of the Public Guardian, to oversee such. There have been several instances which have prompted the need into further oversight of conservatorships in Davidson County. In addition, there are an increasing number of indigent individuals who need assistance from such an office because they may not have friends or family who are capable of serving as a conservator.

The proposed Office of the Public Guardian would replace the one person position of public guardian which is currently vacant following the resignation of Jeanan Mills Stuart. Stuart had acted as public guardian, a public position which acts as a conservator to indigent individuals. Stuart’s resignation came in the wake of an investigation into the fees that she was charging to perform a number of tasks. Stuart had charged her wards the full hourly attorney’s fee of between $200 and $225 to perform any task including running their errands. Some of the tasks included taking wards shopping, running errands, and attending events.

In 2009, Davidson County had 636 conservatorships. That number jumped to 1,782 conservatorships in 2012. With the highest numbers in the state, there are a number of reasons as to why Davidson County has such a high case load including a high number of nursing homes, hospitals, veterans facilities and the large population of homeless. With an increasing amount of conservatorships, it has become much harder to oversee. That number is only expected to grow as the baby boomer generation ages and life expectancies become longer due to medical advances.

In an effort to better oversee conservatorships, the task force has looked to Tarrant County, Texas as a model for the proposed public guardian office. While Davidson County has only a single judge and a staff of 3 to oversee nearly 1,900 cases, Tarrant County has a staff of nearly a dozen to handle a caseload of 1,237. The Tarrant County court has an annual budget of nearly $1 million. A copy of the task force’s report has been sent to members of the Metro Council.

A conservatorship is a court process that remove the decision-making powers and duties from a person who is disabled or lacks the capacity to make such decisions and grants that ability to another person, known as the conservator. Typically a family member or close friend will serve as conservator. However, often indigent individuals do not have anyone who can serve as conservator for them. As a result, those within the proposed Office of the Public Guardian would act as conservator for those individuals.

If you have any questions regarding a conservatorship for someone that you love, feel free to give our Tennessee conservatorship lawyers at The Higgins Firm a call. Our Nashville based conservatorship lawyers would be happy to help you and your loved one. We want to make sure that your loved one receives the care and support that they deserve.