Conservatorship bill gaining traction at TN capitol - WSMV Channel 4

Conservatorship bill gaining traction at TN capitol

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The Tennessee legislature is moving ahead with a bill that better protects people from losing everything if they're placed in a conservatorship.

Many Tennesseans don't realize they can lose their right to vote, marry, pick their own doctors and even take care of their own money once the court appoints someone to become their conservator.

Channel 4 News has profiled several cases that helped lead to the changes now under way.

Jewell Tinnon lost her house and everything inside it last year - although it had all been paid for - when a conservator had it auctioned off to the highest bidder.

"They shouldn't have did me this way," Tinnon said.

This year, the General Assembly is rewriting the conservator laws to clarify things like how long an emergency conservatorship case can drag along.

The bill, which has already passed the full Senate, is now moving quickly through the House.

"What it does, it says, 'This is a temporary procedure.' It cannot last longer than 60 days. It can't be an emergency that somehow becomes a three-year process," said Steve Cobb, who is with the Tennessee Bar Association.

When cases drag on for years, like in the case of Nashville songwriter Danny Tate, there's often no money left after the lawyers' and conservators' expenses and fees, so the new legislation says there has to be a hearing very quickly.

Another new proposal is people appointed a conservator won't necessarily lose all their rights, like in the case of Ginger Franklin, who - in November 2010 - discovered her conservator controlled not only her bank account but also everything else about her life.

"You're not allowed to vote. You're not allowed to drive. You're not allowed to make purchases," Franklin said.

That changes under this bill. Now, a judge would be able to appoint someone to handle finances for someone who may be unable to handle their bank account, but they don't lose all their rights to other decisions and possessions.

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