A Knoxville Lawyer Dedicated To Protecting And Preserving Families.

Conservatorships, Guardianships, and Special Needs Planning

I opened the Family Law Practice of David A. Montgomery, in Knoxville, Tennessee, because I am passionate about protecting and preserving families in East Tennessee. One of the most important areas of my practice is assisting families and individuals who are seeking to protect the health and financial welfare of loved ones who are unable to care for themselves. This includes minors who need a guardian appointed, incapacitated adults who need a conservator appointed, and special needs family members who need special planning.

Nearly every family has someone with special needs. In your family, maybe it’s a minor or adult child with autism or another mental or physical disability. Maybe it’s an elderly parent with dementia or other disability, or a niece or nephew who can’t care for themselves.

Caring for family members with special needs can be stressful and challenging. It can stretch a family’s physical, emotional and financial capabilities to the maximum. I am attorney David Montgomery, and I understand your situation, because I have several extended family members with special needs.


Conservatorship is a legal process where a court appoints a family member or other person or persons as the conservator of an incapacitated adult. The conservator is given the authority to make all important personal decisions for the incapacitated adult, including where they live, managing their healthcare, and handling their legal affairs. The conservator is usually also given the authority to manage the person’s finances, including investing and selling their property and paying their expenses.

Without a conservatorship, a person over age 18 is considered competent to handle their own affairs, and a concerned family member is usually not able to protect them from making harmful personal decisions or mismanaging their assets. For example, a conservatorship allows a child’s parent or parents to continue to care for their mentally disabled child after the child reaches adulthood, in the same way that they cared for him or her before age 18.

At the Family Law Practice of David A. Montgomery, I have worked with numerous families in counties across East Tennessee to obtain Conservatorship Orders, which grant them the necessary authority to help their incapacitated family member with their personal and financial matters.


Guardianship is a legal process, similar to conservatorship, where a court appoints a family member or other person or persons as the guardian of a person under the age of 18. This is needed in the following circumstances:

  • Where a person wants to obtain custody of a family member (e.g., a grandchild or a niece or nephew) whose parent or parents are unable to care for them (e.g., because of death or failure to fulfill parental duties).
  • Where a child inherits property from a family member who has died.

Special Needs Planning

In working with families with someone with special needs, my number one goal is to maximize the person’s quality of life while protecting their assets. To achieve this goal requires a detailed knowledge of both state and federal government benefit programs for disabled persons, Tennessee’s laws on trusts and estates, and state and county requirements for conservatorships and guardianships. At the Family Law Practice of David A. Montgomery, I have worked hard to obtain this knowledge, and I continue to work hard to keep up with the constant changes in these laws and requirements.

In planning for a family member with special needs, there are many different options to consider, including:

  • Special needs trusts (first-party and third-party)
  • ABLE accounts
  • Powers of attorney (financial and health care)
  • Conservatorships of adults
  • Guardianships of minors
  • Estate planning through wills and revocable living trusts
  • Representative payee status for government benefits


“Mr. Montgomery was very professional and thorough. We solicited his help with obtaining conservatorship of our special-needs son. He helped us through every step of the process, told exactly what we needed, and got the court date within the week of our son’s 18th birthday. A very professional and thorough lawyer. Very glad we hired him.” Stephanie M.

Contact Information

If you would like to discuss obtaining a conservatorship for your incapacitated family member, a guardianship for your minor family member, or the different options available to you in planning for your special needs family member, I can be reached at 865-643-8452 or by email. I offer a free initial consultation with no obligation to retain me as your lawyer.