Guardianship and Conservatorship FAQ’s – Massachusetts
Guardianship and conservatorship issues can affect virtually anyone in Massachusetts. While some may only think these situations pertain to the elderly, anyone of any age can find themselves in the middle of a guardianship or conservatorship case. The situations that can crop up may involve aging parents, children who have any number of disabilities, mental health or medical issues, siblings and also significant others.
A request for guardianship or conservatorship in MA can be all-encompassing and permanent; or they can be temporary and limited. A court must decide which course of action and what type of guardianship and conservatorship ruling is needed and beneficial for everyone involved. Typically, someone brings forth a request and is granted guardianship or conservatorship when a loved one becomes incapacitated, has impaired judgment (such as a mental disability or illness) or if they are proven to be a threat to themselves. While someone may disagree with a person’s choices or life decisions, guardianship or conservatorship is not granted because you don’t like the way someone is leading their life or spending their money. There has to be clear reason presented to the judge that proves it is vital that a second party take control of a person’s financial life, assets, health care or otherwise make their own decisions. A medical evaluation is one way to go about proving someone’s inability to care for themselves.
Obtaining guardianship rights over another means you essentially take on the responsibility of all of their personal, financial and medical care and other decisions. These decisions can entail deciding where a person can or can’t live and what medical treatment can or can’t be done.
In some cases, guardianship may need to be granted due to an emergency. A typical emergency that may warrant a temporary guardianship request may be if someone suddenly presented symptoms or behaviors of a mental illness and intervention would prevent them from harm. While guardianships can be far-reaching, it is the judge who will determine how far-reaching, such as if someone can be committed against their will or if certain medications can be administered.
Much like guardianship of a loved one, being granted conservatorship of someone carries a great deal of responsibility. Conservatorship entails being granted control over someone else’s financial holdings and assets. This typically occurs when someone shows they are endangering their finances or assets due to a number of reasons, such as mental illness, ill health or dementia, or brain injury to name a few. They essentially for some reason have become unable to handle their own finances and assets in a responsible or reasonable manner. A conservatorship allows for another party to invest, save, spend or protect a person’s accounts or assets. There are situations where a limited partnership allows for someone to have conservatorship over someone finances but with that person still having a say in what is decided. This may occur when an elderly parent is still capable of handling their finances but know the day is fast approaching where they won’t be or they simply know that assistance is in their best interest.
Resources: Guardian/Conservatorship Forms in MA
In order to gain guardianship or conservatorship over any party, you must petition the probate court. Anyone can object to your request, even the person you seek to gain guardianship or conservatorship over. Because these matters often affect families and can be difficult transitions for some, having an attorney guide you through the process is essential. A highly trained and experienced legal representative can help outline what all responsibilities may be part of your situation and what to expect. When it comes to a temporary guardianship or conservatorship, a qualified guardianship/conservatorship attorney in MA can help guide parties as to the steps needed to acquire a permanent one if they feel it is necessary. Working with family members and having support for a quest for guardianship or conservatorship can make the process smoother and less disruptive. Having the right legal team in your corner can help ensure the best interests of all parties are considered and ultimately agreed upon.
By Anna Shapiro