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Legal Guardianship in Massachusetts

Introduction to Guardianship in Massachusetts

A guardianship is a legal relationship in which the court appoints a person to care for another. A guardian may be appointed for a minor if the legal parents are unfit or for an adult if she is incapacitated. An appointment for guardianship may be limited in scope or general. For example, a limited guardianship order allows an incapacitated person to participate in decision making to the greatest extent possible. A general order means an incapacitated person is no longer competent to make decisions on her own accord. The court will consider limits on the guardianship based on the incapacitated person’s abilities.

Who Can Request to Become a Guardian of a Person?

A person seeking to become a guardian of a person in Massachusetts must be at least 18 years old and reside in the United States. The prospective guardian does not need to be related to the respondent (incapacitated person) and more than one guardian can be appointed to serve. A prospective guardian must be ruled competent to care for the respondent. The court will review the petitioner’s criminal record and see if she has ever been involved with a Department of Children and Families matter.

What is the Difference Between a Guardianship and Conservatorship?

A guardian makes personal and medical-care decisions for an incapacitated person. The guardian determines where the incapacitated person lives, monitors their residence, provides consent for medical treatment, and makes sure her everyday basic needs are met. A guardian is required to consider the incapacitated person’s desires and personal values in decision-making. The guardian is also required to help the adult to develop or gain the capacity to manage her own personal affairs.

A conservator is appointed to manage a protected person’s property and make financial decisions on her behalf. This includes making decisions regarding a person’s money, property, and business affairs. A person can petition to serve as both a guardian and conservator of an incapacitated person or minor.

The Guardianship Process in Massachusetts

A guardianship petition must be filed in the Family and Probate Court in the Massachusetts county in which the child resides. A person interested in the incapacitated person’s welfare can file a guardianship petition. A person seeking guardianship must notify all interested parties. A guardian does not serve as a minor’s legal parents.

To petition for guardianship, the interested person must file the petition with the court requesting appointment as a guardian and submit a medical certificate or clinical team report with the petition. A medical certificate is valid for 30 days from the date of examination. A clinical team report is valid up to six months following the date of examination. The certificate or report may need to be updated between the filing of the initial petition and the hearing date.

How Much Does it Cost to Petition for a Massachusetts Guardianship?

There are no filing fees to file a guardianship petition in Massachusetts. The petitioner must pay for all costs to notify all interested parties, including the birth parents, of the legal proceeding. The petitioner must pay for costs related to obtaining a bond. A fee waiver may be obtained if the petitioner is deemed to be indigent.

What are the Guardian’s Duties & Responsibilities to the Adult and Court?

The guardian’s duties are listed in the Decree and Order issued at the guardianship hearing. As mentioned above, a guardian does not manage the financial affairs of the incapacitated person or child unless she is also appointed to serve as a conservator.

The guardian’s primary duties and responsibilities will vary depending on the needs of the incapacitated person or minor. Duties and the responsibilities of the guardian usually include the following:

  1. Ensure the incapacitated party or minor is living in a safe and healthy environment
  2. Provide for the adult or minor’s everyday basic needs
  3. Make medical-care decisions and arrange ongoing treatment
  4. Provide for the social and physical exercise needs of the adult
  5. Apply for social security, Medicare, and other relevant benefits
  6. Advocate for the adult or minor’s legal rights and independence

In addition, the guardian must provide the court with a Guardian Care Plan Report. This report details the adult’s or minor’s current condition, living arrangements, and financial matters. The future care needs of the adult should also be included.

When Does a Massachusetts Guardianship End?

A Massachusetts guardianship ends when a person turns eighteen years old. It can also be terminated upon a minor being adopted or when the court determines that the guardianship is no longer necessary.

Contact our law office for more information about obtaining a guardianship appointment in Massachusetts.

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