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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.
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The filing process can be long and confusing, especially when you have so many forms to keep track of and people to notify. The Law Offices of Rachel M. Matos can help you take care of the legal side while you focus on preparing for your duties as a guardian and conservator. This can be a hard role with high stakes, so a legal professional can better guide you through the process and inform you of your rights and responsibilities.
Schedule an initial consultation with the Law Offices of Rachel M. Matos online to discuss your situation in more detail.