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In re Conservatorship for Williams

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 11, 2018


          Session November 15, 2017

          Appeal from the General Sessions Court for Loudon County No. 5366 Rex Alan Dale, Judge No. E2017-00777-COA-R3-CV

         This is a conservatorship action in which the wife sought appointment as her husband's conservator. Following a hearing, the court found that the husband was fully disabled and in need of a conservator to manage his personal and financial affairs. The court appointed the wife to serve in that capacity and awarded her spousal support. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the General Sessions Court

          Matthew R. Knable, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ralph C. Williams.

          Loren E. Plemmons, Loudon, Tennessee, for the appellee, Emma Janice Williams.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr. and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.



         I. BACKGROUND

         Ralph C. Williams ("Respondent") was born on February 28, 1939. He married Emma Janice Williams ("Petitioner") in 1960. No children were born of the marriage. Throughout their marriage, the Parties accumulated an estate now valued at approximately $1.4 million.

         On November 15, 2016, Petitioner filed a petition in which she requested her appointment as Respondent's conservator. In support of the petition, she alleged that Respondent was no longer able to make personal or medical decisions or handle his financial and business affairs as a result of his diagnoses of Dementia, Delusional Disorder, Personality Disorder, Depression, Hypertension, Polyneuropathy, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Petitioner requested approval of a property management plan and further requested that "the fees and expenses [for her attorney], the Guardian ad litem, and other persons appointed by the Court as well as the costs of this matter be charged as determined appropriate by the Court."

         At that time, Respondent was housed in the Loudon County Jail as a result of a dispute between himself and a neighbor. The dispute, which concerned the placement of some bushes on common property, escalated to the point that Respondent brandished a pistol. Respondent was arrested and later charged with aggravated assault. Thereafter, he was subjected to a mental health evaluation, needs assessment, and a mini-mental status examination performed by Ashley McKamey, M.Ed., who recommended his admission to a long-term memory care facility.

         The court appointed A. Wayne Henry ("Guardian") as Respondent's guardian ad litem and Matthew R. Knable as his attorney ad litem. Guardian met with Respondent on November 17, 2016, after which he recommended Petitioner's appointment as Respondent's conservator based upon his interview and observations of Respondent, his interview of Respondent's physician, and Respondent's medical records. The court then ordered a physical and psychological examination and evaluation of Respondent to be performed at Parkwest Hospital.

         The next day, on December 7, Respondent was transferred from Parkwest Hospital by ambulance to Tennova Healthcare of LaFollette, Senior Behavioral Services. Thereafter, Petitioner amended her petition to include her appointment as Respondent's emergency conservator pending the entry of a final order in the case. She agreed that such appointment should not exceed a period of 60 days. The court complied and entered an order appointing Petitioner as Respondent's emergency conservator. The court reserved ruling on the issue of fees, expenses, and costs incurred, pending the final hearing of the conservatorship action. The court then continued Petitioner's appointment as Respondent's emergency conservator, again reserving ruling on the issue of fees, expenses, and costs.

         Petitioner submitted a property management plan, personal financial statement with income and expense report, and a petition to award spousal support prior to the final hearing. Following a hearing, the court issued letters of conservatorship to Petitioner, and an order appointing her as conservator on February 15, 2017.[1] The court found that Respondent had been properly served; that all those entitled to notice had received the same; that Respondent was fully disabled and in need of assistance; that appointment of a conservator was in his best interest; and that Petitioner was the proper person to serve in such capacity. The court further found that Petitioner was entitled to spousal support but held that the issue concerning the appropriate sum would be determined at a later date. Finally, the court approved the property management plan and awarded fees and expenses to Petitioner's attorney, Guardian, and the Attorney ad litem.

         One month later, on March 16, 2017, as pertinent to this appeal, the court entered an order for spousal support and conservatorship fee but did not award attorney fees or ad litem fees for costs associated with the hearing on the issue of spousal support. Accordingly, Petitioner's attorney and the Attorney ad litem then submitted sworn affidavits requesting approval of their fees for services rendered during the applicable time period. The ...

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