Persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities have the same legal rights as anyone else in Tennessee. However, that changes when a person becomes the subject of a conservatorship. There are specific rights that may be removed during a conservatorship process. In this blog, we will explain what many of those rights are.
Rights Removed During a Tennessee Conservatorship
A conservator is established when a disabled adult - most commonly an elderly person – can no longer make decisions for him or herself. Dementia and Alzheimer's disease are the primary reasons why an elderly individual cannot make a decision on their own. For the elderly, a conservator is often court-ordered when a power-of-attorney has not been assigned. When a person becomes subject to a conservatorship, he or she loses certain rights. These rights are below listed:
- the right to make decisions about mental or medical examinations or treatment;
- the right to consent to hospitalization;
- the right to consent or withhold consent to be placed in a residential setting, group home, or another similar facility;
- the right to receive or release authorization to disclose confidential information;
- the ability to apply for benefits available privately and publicly to persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities;
- the ability to dispose of property according to his or her wishes;
- the right to obtain or use a Tennessee driver's license;
- the right to execute legal instruments;
- the right to engage in contractual relationships;
- the right to make purchases or otherwise spend financial assets;
- the ability to pay bills or otherwise conduct financial activities;
- the right to engage in intimate relationships or make reproductive health decisions; or
- the right to make end of life decisions, like consenting, withholding, or withdrawing consent to be resuscitated solely to sustain life or to be artificially provided with food, water, or other nourishment solely to sustain life.
Can the Rights Lost During a Tennessee Conservatorship be Limited?
The loss of rights can be traumatizing for a person, especially those with only slight intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. In those cases, Tennessee law dictates that the judge must craft an order such that it limits the rights that are taken away from the individual. For example, a person may be perfectly fine to vote, but not ok to operate a vehicle. A Tennessee court will want the person to retain as much control over his or her life as possible. As such, whatever authority has not been assigned to a conservator, the person retains control of that aspect of his or her life.
Regardless of how much control an individual retains in a conservatorship, he or she should always be treated with dignity and respect. Each and every person also has the right to equal treatment under the law, including the right to petition the court to modify or remove a conservatorship, or even prevent it's establishment completely.
The Key Takeaway
An individual's rights are lost during a conservatorship, but some of these rights can be retained so long as the person is competent to make decisions with respect to those aspects of his or her life. Conservatorships are often difficult processes. If it is a parent or another relative of yours who may become or is the subject of a conservatorship and you have questions about it, contact an experienced conservatorship attorney in Clarksville, Tennessee to assist you.