Conservatorship in Massachusetts
Introduction to Conservatorship in Massachusetts
Conservatorship is a legal process in which the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court appoints a person—called a Conservator—to make certain decisions on behalf of someone who is mentally or physically unable to care for themselves.
Obtaining a conservatorship requires an applicant to present a medical certificate to the court, demonstrating the scope of the conservatorship needed to care for the protected person. For example, a protected person may be able to make day-to-day financial decisions but struggle keeping up with large purchases or obligations. In other cases, a protected person may be able to keep up with larger purchases or obligations like rent payments but need help with day-to-day financial decisions.
Courts heavily scrutinize conservatorship petitions, and it can take months for a conservatorship petition to be granted. Because of the heavy scrutiny and potentially lengthy legal process, it’s important that you hire an experienced attorney to help you obtain a conservatorship order for your loved one if you believe they’re unable to care for themselves in certain areas.
Below are answers to frequently asked questions about conservatorship in Massachusetts. If you have additional questions, contact our office today, and someone will answer additional questions and discuss how we may be able to help you protect your loved one through conservatorship or other legal processes.
Who can be a Conservator?
Any qualified adult can serve as a conservator in Massachusetts.
What are the Conservator’s Duties and Responsibilities to the Protected Person?
A conservator is appointed to protect and manage the money, property, and business affairs of a protected person. A conservator’s duties and responsibilities to the adult or minor include the following:
- Collect and manage the assets of the protected person’s estate
- Pay bills and taxes
- Enter into contracts
- Oversee the maintenance of real property
- Maintain business operations
- Pay for living and medical expenses
How to Obtain a Conservatorship
To obtain a conservatorship, an interested person must petition the Probate and Family Court. An interested person must file a Petition for Appointment and a Medical Certificate signed by a licensed professional. The Medical Certificate evaluation must have been complted within 30 days of the filing of the petition. The petitioner must provide notice to all interested parties and the proposed protected person.
Once the petition is filed, a hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, the petitioner must furnish a current Medical Certificate signed by a professional who has evaluated the proposed protected person within the past thirty days from the date of the court hearing. The certificate must support the need for the certificate. The judge will review the information and grant a limited conservatorship based on the proposed incapacitated person’s condition.
An interested party can either seek a temporary conservatorship appointment or a permanent conservatorship. A temporary conservatorship may be set for a period of up to 90 days. The judge may extend the temporary order upon a finding of extraordinary circumstances set forth in the order.
Finally, you can request a co-conservatorship in which two parties work together to maintain the best interest of the protected person. You don’t need to do it all alone.
What are the Post-Appointment Duties of the Conservator to the Court?
After a conservatorship is granted, the conservator must submit an Inventory to the court within 90 days of the appointment. The Inventory consists of a detailed statement of a protected person’s assets.
In addition, an Accounting must also be filed annually with the court. The court may also require the conservator to file a Financial Plan. Conservators must keep their assets separate from the protected person’s assets.
What is the Difference Between a Guardianship and Conservatorship?
In addition to conservatorship, Massachusetts law provides protections under guardianship laws. The difference between guardianship and conservatorship generally relates to the types of decisions made by the appointed person.
Guardianship generally involves appointing a person with authority to make personal and health-related (medical treatment, safety, and general welfare) decisions on behalf of a protected person who has been deemed incapacitated or incompetent by the court.
Conservatorship generally involves appointing a person to make financial and business decisions on behalf of the protected person. This includes managing the protected person’s bank accounts, collecting and paying bills, and managing assets.
Contact our law office for more information on how to obtain a conservatorship appointment in Massachusetts. We can represent you through the conservatorship process to help you ensure your loved one receives proper care.