How do Guardianships work in Tennessee?

As a person with aging parents, there comes a time when a mental illness, dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other physical or mental disability robs a loved one of their independence. Suddenly, this person can no longer make the best decisions for themselves regarding their health and finances and needs a conservator or guardian.

Tennessee has protections for adults requiring conservatorship so that this vulnerable population is well looked after.

We’re going to go over what guardianship (aka conservatorship) looks like in Tennessee. We’ll also look at ways you can avoid the process to make more timely decisions for loved ones requiring guardianship.

What is Guardianship?

Suddenly facing the physical and emotional challenges of caring for aging loved ones is no easy task. When an individual we care for faces mental or physical impairment, they simply may not be able to make the best decisions for themselves.

Harder yet, is when a loved one can no longer care for themselves but refuses or is unable to appoint another party to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf. It is this common situation in which conservatorship helps play an important role in protecting the incapacitated.

The Tennessee court system sets up a guardianship to help protect a vulnerable member of society from scammers and other ill-intentioned individuals.
Like probate, guardianship is a court process. The process removes a person’s legal rights when they can no longer make sound decisions regarding their health, finances, and well-being.

In Tennessee, guardianships are serious business. The court is creating a court order that removes powers from an individual and places them in the care of the conservator. The order states precisely which rights are included and may specify that a conservator can make all the decisions or a limited number on behalf of the individual.

What rights can be transferred through Guardianship?

Tennessee Code, § 34-3-107, specifies a number of rights that can be removed from an individual and placed in the care of the court-appointed guardian, including:

  • The ability to make informed decisions for medical care.
  • The right to make end-of-life decisions.
  • The ability to admit the individual to a hospital, group home, etc.
  • The ability to apply for benefits.
  • The right to make purchases, pay bills, and invest the individual’s income.
  • The ability to enter into a contract.
  • The ability to govern “communication, visitation, or interaction with other persons.”


As you can see, these actions are serious, significant, and hold long-term implications. A guardianship is a no-nonsense role requiring high moral standards and the ability to handle these responsibilities. The best course is to start with a strong estate plan while you are of sound mind and judgment. Your Will Gurus estate planning attorney can recommend the most appropriate features based on your situation and your vision for tomorrow.

Avoiding Guardianship in Tennessee

Even though guardianships can become necessary and serve a vital purpose for protecting the vulnerable, the process is neither easy nor entirely ideal. Any party wanting to serve as a conservator must go through the court’s approach to obtain conservatorship. Even though it may seem clear-cut, the proceedings can be lengthy and expensive. The conservator can be a Public Guardian, a family member, a close friend, or even an attorney or neighbor.

The trouble with guardianships, however, is that they are reactive in nature. A guardianship is granted based on medical proof that an individual can no longer care for themselves. Once an individual has reached this point, then the wheels are put in motion to appoint another party in responsible charge of their affairs.

A far more proactive approach is through estate planning. Before a medical emergency or condition incapacitates a person, our clients sit down with an experienced estate attorney and map out every aspect of how they’d like to have their affairs handled. With Powers of Attorney (POA) for medical and financial setup, a family can have peace of mind knowing the decisions have already been made for the “what ifs” life brings.

With a solid plan in place, as soon as a parent or loved one needs help making decisions, you have all the legal framework in place and ready to go.

Worried about aging parents? Put a plan in place today.

No one wants to think about making end-of-life decisions for themselves, let alone their loved ones. But not having a plan in place means dumping all of these tough decisions on the people you love if you suddenly become incapable of making decisions for yourself. 

Our attorneys are seasoned and empathetic professionals who can recommend the most straightforward ways to help you or your loved one receive the dignity, care, and respect they deserve.

Give us a call at (865) 666-6175 click here, so we can learn more about you and your unique situation.

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