Guardianship and Trusts Corp. provides court-ordered conservator services for individuals with disabilities in Davidson County or in one of eight nearby counties in middle Tennessee. After a hearing in which the court finds that a person lacks the capacity for decision-making and self-care due to disabilities of age or other vulnerabilities, the court appoints GTC to serve as guardian of the person, conservator of the person’s property, or both. GTC’s role is to assess and coordinate living arrangements, health care, insurance, finances, and legal representation if necessary. The goal is to assist the client in managing his or her affairs in the way that he or she would if able, maintaining the person in the least restrictive setting while maximizing the person’s financial resources.
AND TRUSTS CORP
GTC became the court-appointed conservator for two additional wards in 2016. Adult Protective Services (APS) had identified one of these individuals and asked the Seventh Circuit Court of Davidson County Probate Division to assign Guardianship and Trusts Corp. (GTC) as the guardian and conservator due to abuse, exploitation or neglect. These individuals required immediate and intensive intervention, and all three have improved significantly since coming under our care:
1) “Cecil” was an indigent veteran with no family and a girlfriend accused of neglect and exploitation. He was already hospitalized when the court named GTC emergency temporary conservator. This gentleman declined rapidly, and GTC was in place to make difficult decisions to improve the quality of life he had left and ultimately, to allow him to die with dignity. He passed peacefully and GTC worked with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Metro Social Services, Nashville National Cemetery and a private funeral home to ensure that he received a proper burial. None of this would have been possible without the Court’s appointment of GTC.
2) “Cindy” has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, and had been always been assisted by an older family member—but when his health started to fail, he recognized the need for a new conservator and approached GTC. Although planned, successor conservatorships are a rarity for GTC, this may become increasingly important as the elderly demographic expands in our community and family resources are stretched thin.
3) Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, “Mary” had been living alone in a run-down cabin on her parents’ property for years, with her disability checks managed by an old family friend who never bothered to check on her. Mary would wander the area at all hours, sometimes unclothed and covered with mosquito bites, even going onto her neighbor’s porch to eat their dog’s food. Mary’s stability declined and meanwhile the “friend” spent all of her money on low-quality repairs to the house, which included a room with several inches of feces smeared on the walls. GTC became her conservator in 2015, and in 2016 was able to liquidate her real estate at a bid 50% higher than the appraised value. This sale financed Mary’s move from a basic boarding house to an assisted living facility with a host of social programs and opportunities. Mary now serves as a volunteer in the facility’s kitchen and likes to accompany the head nurse on her rounds. She is able to worship at her old church and has started playing her guitar again.
4) Additionally, through the assistance of funds from the Frist Technology Grant, GTC was able to purchase and install updated software for client account management as well as new software for corporate account management. The Frist grant also provided an opportunity to purchase an office cell phone for our guardian on call, replacing the outmoded pager system previously in use.
GUARDIANSHIP AND TRUSTS CORP
STRATEGIC GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
1) Continue to accept Adult Protective Services emergency requests for conservator services while making ourselves available to take over conservatorships from attorneys who were assigned to serve when the Tennessee Public Guardian ceased its guardianship function in 2013. All Public Guardian cases were transferred to area attorneys and to GTC at that time. As those wards age, many attorneys find that they do not have the background in medicine and social work needed to address the needs of their wards.
2) Raise all staff to the level of Certified National Guardian.
3) Replace the current phone system (vintage 2002) with a more reliable VoIP system.
4) Increase participation in our Pooled Trust, serving beneficiaries with special needs by offering an opportunity for pooled investments that allow the beneficiary to retain eligibility for benefits.
5) Develop and maintain an unrestricted financial reserve of six weeks annualized expenses or better; maintain a restricted fund to offset the cost of indigent clients of $15,000.00 or better.
The Executive, Clinical Issues, Trusts, Personnel, & Development Committees work to give our staff resources and tools that enable them to provide the critical services our clients need, while helping raise the funds necessary to continue serving the community. GTC has grown each year due to the staff’s increasing productivity, aggressive solicitation of new sources of funding, and growing caseloads. Our revenue stream includes trust management fees and court-approved conservatorship fees collected from self-paying clients. GTC supports services to indigent client by soliciting funds from multiple sources including private gifts, corporate donations, foundation grants, the United Way, and other giving campaigns. GTC revenues have consistently increased over the years. The talents of our diverse staff and the contributions of our volunteer board yield a competitive advantage for continued financial stability in the future. GTC’s guardian/conservator program provides a safety net for those in our community who may have very limited resources but require significant service and care. GTC manages individual and pooled trusts to benefit individuals with special needs. The Supplemental Needs Trusts program protects investments while also retaining benefits. GTC has excelled in providing these services through active participation of the volunteer board and the ever-increasing skills and expertise of our staff. With continued education, cross-training, and on-the-job experience, GTC staff members provide top-notch service for the financial, medical, social, and legal needs of our clients.
Adult Protective Services regularly looks to GTC to serve as guardian and conservator for wards of the court who have been abused, neglected or exploited and have nowhere else to turn.The person becomes a ward of the court after a hearing in which the court determines that the person lacks the capacity for decision-making and self-care. This person may have experienced medical or physical trauma, abuse, or neglect; may have no family members; and may have been financially victimized as well.
The goal of our conservatorship program is to improve the ward's quality of life. We do this by maintaining the ward in the least restrictive environment and ensuring that any benefits or other finances are maximized.
Conservatorship services promote safety, improved health, and ultimately improved longevity, as many unnecessary stressors are eliminated and care is managed properly. Signs of this improvement include improved nutritional intake and corresponding weight gain or loss, and measurable improvement on the Mini Mental State Examination.
Conservatorship services also maximize financial resources, ensuring that benefits and insurance are in place and that bills are paid on time, and that arrangements are in place for any emergency or eventuality. For clients who have been financially exploited, we pursue recovery of all misappropriated funds.
B.C., a 78 year-old man with diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and dementia, signed a quitclaim deed giving his home away to his siblings. They moved in, sold his furnishings and placed him in a travel trailer. GTC had the warranty deed voided and sold the house. Now B.C. is stabilized in a nursing home where his blood sugar is monitored and he does not have problems falling.
A.S. is a 99 year-old woman with dementia who lost more than $70,000 after giving power of attorney to a longtime friend. GTC identified the improper expenditures and is recovering the funds with the court’s oversight. A.S. has meanwhile improved her nutritional intake.
Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, 54 year-old M.M. was living in an isolated, rustic cabin in a rural county, her finances managed by a family friend in Nashville who never saw her. Concerned neighbors repeatedly found M.M. walking naked around the area, looking for scraps in unattended dog food bowls. Now M.M. lives in a group residence for women where she receives her medications regularly, eats consistently, and has opportunities for social interaction.
We serve as fiduciary over trusts set up for the benefit of persons with mental and/or physical disabilities. These can be Trusts Under Will or Living Trusts, most of which are Special or Supplemental Needs Trusts. We also offer a Pooled Trust, which have lower costs than separately managed trusts but offer the same benefits, while combining participants' funds for investments that benefit all trust participants proportionately.
GTC’s operations are closely supervised by an involved Board of Directors who meet formally and informally and regularly consult with staff between meetings. In most instances, GTC serves as the conservator of both the person and is or her assets. These conservatorships are set by court appointment and are subject to regular reporting and oversight requirements of the courts. As a trust company with a Certificate of Authority from the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions, GTC is also subject to the regulatory oversight of the state as regards the management of client assets. GTC must also provide regular reports on its handling of client funds to agencies such as the Veterans Administration and the Social Security Administration. GTC is the only non-profit organization in middle Tennessee offering free services to indigent clients.
Where most trust management services are for-profit and can afford to turn down all but the wealthiest clients, GTC has instituted a "Self-Settled Pooled Trust" to hold funds for Supplemental Needs for qualifying individuals with as little as $2,500 to invest. By pooling the funds for investment, GTC enables the clients to receive professional investment management services at a fraction of their usual cost-- meanwhile ensuring through careful disbursement procedures that the client does not lose access to means-tested benefits.
Despite a proven record of success, GTC lacks the resources to market its services to clients who can afford to pay the professional fees that keep GTC operating to serve indigent and paying clients alike. We are taking a first step towards marketing by creating a website in-house and using a no-frills hosting service provider, along with a basic Facebook page. We hope to expand our web presence as our resources allow for better site optimization. At the same time, our accounting software is not designed for shared investment accounts, and the spreadsheet system we are currently using will not be tenable if we are able to attract significantly more investors to the pooled fund, as we hope to do.
GTC’s operations are
closely supervised by an involved Board of Directors who meet formally and
informally and regularly consult with staff between meetings. In most
instances, GTC serves as fiduciary by court appointment and is subject to
regular reporting and oversight requirements of the courts. As a trust company,
GTC holds a Certificate of Banking Authority from the Tennessee Department of
Financial Institutions, which conducts regular audits as part of its regulatory
oversight. GTC must also report regularly on its handling of client funds to
agencies such as the Veterans Administration and the Social Security
Administration. Beyond fiduciary oversight and responsibility, GTC seeks
to cultivate board members with experience in fundraising--particularly in
major individual gifts as well as foundation grants--to provide the leadership
needed to bring existing donors to new levels of giving while overseeing efforts
to increase the donor base.
Ms. Mitchell has been with GTC since 1998, previously serving as Associate Executive Director and Director of Social Service until she became Executive Director in 2008. Prior to joining GTC, she was employed by the Mental Health Cooperative of Nashville. Ms. Mitchell earned her Master of Science degree in Public Service Management at Cumberland University. Prior to that, she earned the Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from Middle Tennessee State University. Ms. Mitchell has been a National Certified Guardian with the Center for Guardianship Certification since 1999.
GTC’s operations are closely supervised by an involved Board of Directors who meet formally and informally, consulting regularly with staff between meetings. GTC serves as fiduciary primarily by court appointment, and must report back regularly on all actions and transactions made on behalf of each ward of the court. A publicly-chartered trust company, GTC is also subject to the regulatory oversight of the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions, which conducts regular audits of client accounts. GTC also reports on its handling of client funds to federal agencies such as the Veterans Administration and the Social Security Administration. Despite a proven record of success, GTC lacks the human and financial resources to market its services to clients who have funds to pay the professional fees for GTC services. Meanwhile, program revenue is our largest source of support to keep GTC operating to serve indigent and paying clients alike.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
GTC receives income from diverse sources including individual donations, foundation and corporate grants, and the United Way campaign. Fees for conservatorship services, most of which are subject to court approval, account for the majority of revenues; trust fees are the other source of service-generated revenue. Due to extensive reporting and oversight requirements, as well as the necessity of frequent court appearances, the services we provide unavoidably involve administrative costs. Nevertheless, fees charged to those who can afford them remain modest by community standards. The flexibility afforded by a small staff and active volunteer board have thus far allowed GTC to maintain a small reserve. Yearly financial results shown on the audit and 990 are calculated according to the accrual, rather than the cash accounting method. Work performed for fee-paying clients but not collected--or in many cases, not even billed--at the close of the fiscal year are calculated in accrual income for the year as receivables. In some cases, payment on a receivable is not expected for some months or even years. Profit or loss in any given year is in large part a function of the increase or decrease in receivables; consequently, results shown on the audit and 990 do not give an accurate picture of actual cash profits and losses for that year. The GTC Board relies almost entirely on the cash accounting method in making and tracking its budget because it accurately reflects actual results. Operating budget figures shown are calculated according to the cash method and do not necessarily reflect activity in reserve and grant accounts.
“I’ve never shared my story with anybody.” -- The first step toward recovery can be the most difficult. The ability to engage in productive activities, to find relationships with other people fulfilling, and to adapt to change and cope with adversity are each vital to enjoying a happy and healthy life. But each of these facilities can be significantly impaired by mental health disorders. A mental health diagnosis should not define who a person is, or what a person can achieve through treatment and support. Middle Tennessee nonprofit organizations are ready to help make that first step toward good health a little easier.
Copyright © 2014 The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
3833 Cleghorn Avenue, Nashville, TN 37215