Guardianships and Conservatorships in Bristol County
Professional Legal Guidance and Personal Attention on Your Guardianship Case. Serving Clients throughout Northfolk County, Plymouth County, Cape Cod & the South Shore Area
In certain situations, you may be propelled to the forefront of a person’s life as their proxy decision-maker. Massachusetts offers guardianships for incapacitated persons who need a trusted individual to make important decisions on their behalf. At the Law Offices of Rachel M. Matos, we understand how critical such a role is, and we also recognize how complex the legal process can be for petitioning for guardianship. We will lend a professional hand and work personally with you to navigate your guardianship case, step-by-step.
Contact the Law Offices of Rachel M. Matos for legal support in your guardianship case today.
What Is Guardianship/Conservatorship?
Guardianship, also known as conservatorship, is a legal process that gives a person (the guardian) permission to take care of and make decisions for an incapacitated adult. An incapacitated person (respondent) is someone with a clinically diagnosed condition that prohibits them from being able to make or communicate decisions about their physical health, safety, or care.
There are two basic types of guardianship in Massachusetts:
- Plenary (complete) guardianship – if an individual is not able to make any decisions for themselves
- Limited guardianship – applies to specific areas where the incapacitated person needs help (e.g., medical decisions)
Guardians are responsible for acting in the best interest of the incapacitated person and taking their desires and personal values into consideration when making decisions. The guardian should also inform the court of significant changes of address and if the incapacitated person dies by filing a death certificate. Note that guardians do not have the authority to remove an incapacitated person’s decision-making abilities; they may make decisions only if the incapacitated person cannot. A guardian is also not responsible for the incapacitated person’s expenses.
Conservators have similar responsibilities. Once approved as a conservator for a protected person, they must:
- serve as a fiduciary responsible for managing the protected person’s property, but only as the court authorized in the decree;
- encourage the protected person to participate in decisions, act on their own behalf, and regain the ability to manage their estate and business matters to the extent possible;
- tell the court if their address or the protected person’s address changes;
- tell the court if the protected person dies by filing a copy of their death certificate and a final account.
Filing for Guardianship
The Probate and Family Court may assign a guardian to make some or all decisions for an incapacitated person. Note that guardians in Massachusetts have to be appointed by the Probate and Family Court, and it is not an automatic process. Individuals not eligible for the role of guardian are those who are currently being investigated or who have pending charges for assault and battery that seriously injured the incapacitated person.
Once the court has decided on a guardian (petitioner), the petitioner should file the following forms:
- Petition for Appointment of Guardian for an Incapacitated Person (MPC 120) – Specify plenary or limited guardianship and reasons for the choice.
- Medical Certificate (MPC 400) – Must be completed and signed by a registered physician, licensed psychologist, or certified psychiatric nurse clinical specialist. The incapacitated person must be examined within 30 days of filing the petition.
- Bond (MPC 801) – Confirms that the petitioner agrees to the jurisdiction of the court that is issuing the Letters of Appointment as guardian. The bond must include the estimated value of the incapacitated person's real estate and personal estate.
- Clinical Team Report (MPC 402) – Only filed if the person has an intellectual disability. The report needs to be filled out by a physician, licensed psychologist, and social worker. The incapacitated person must be examined within 180 days of filing the petition.
After filling out the appropriate forms, the petitioner must have a disinterested person (someone who has no ties to the case) give notice to the incapacitated person by delivering a copy of the petition and the citation 14 days before the hearing. They should also notify by regular, first-class mail:
- everyone named in the petition;
- the U.S. Veteran's Administration;
- the Department of Developmental Services (if the person is intellectually disabled)
In a case when the petitioner cannot locate an interested party, the court will provide instructions for publishing the notice in a newspaper.
What Is a Rogers Guardianship in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, a Rogers guardianship is a legal arrangement where the court gives someone permission to agree to extraordinary treatment on behalf of a person who is incapacitated and cannot provide informed consent themselves.
Extraordinary treatment can include things like:
- Antipsychotic medications,
- Electroconvulsive therapy, and
- Other intrusive procedures.
When determining whether to grant someone Rogers authority, the court will consider if the person needing a guardian cannot make informed choices about treatment because of a mental illness and whether the person would choose the medical procedure themselves.
The court considers the following factors when deciding what medical care someone would choose:
- The person’s past preferences,
- The effects on the person’s family,
- The likelihood of adverse side effects, and
- The state of the person’s condition with or without treatment.
People who can petition to be a Rogers guardian include:
- Family members, or
State agencies, hospitals, or other care facilities may also apply for Rogers authority.
The court will hold a hearing to determine whether a Rogers guardian should be appointed. The individual asking for guardianship and the person needing assistance may present evidence to support their claims. If it’s approved, the court will review the Rogers guardianship yearly.
Contact Our Firm Today
Applying for guardianship/conservatorship can be an emotionally and legally difficult time. Having a lawyer on your side to help you through it can make the process more manageable. At the Law Offices of Rachel M. Matos, we offer the legal guidance our clients need at each stage of their case.