If an adult becomes incapacitated due to an accident or illness and has no health care proxy on file, then someone can petition the court for guardianship. A specific process must be followed, per state law. The following is some helpful information on guardianship of an incapacitated adult in Massachusetts. Guardianship is connected to a person’s medical decisions. Please note, there is a separate court process, known as a conservatorship, which deals with managing the assets of an incapacitated person.

Guardianship Responsibilities

Becoming a guardian gives you the legal right to make important decisions on behalf of someone who may not be able to do so, either permanently or temporarily. This can include decisions on medical care, living arrangements, and administration of medication. Courts can grant limited guardianship, covering only specific responsibilities, or complete guardianship. The type and length of guardianship depends on the circumstances.

Who May Become a Guardian

Technically, anyone can petition for guardianship. He/she need not be the parent of the incapacitated person, although parents or direct families are commonly the petitioners. If the petitioner has any history or charges of assaulting or neglecting an incapacitated person, then the courts will not approve the petition. Also, there must be a reason for needing guardianship, such as a concern for a person’s immediate health or well-being.

Ending Guardianship

Whether a guardianship is temporary or permanent, it will end if either the guardian or incapacitated person dies. If the person regains capacity, such as recovery from a severe illness or waking up from a coma, that also ends guardianship. Finally, courts may remove guardians as well.

Assistance with Requesting Guardianship of an Incapacitated Adult in Massachusetts

If an adult family member has been incapacitated and you wish to seek guardianship, consult with an attorney. Both the process of obtaining and ending guardianship can involve a complicated and sometimes lengthy legal process. Understanding your rights and how to best proceed with guardianship of an incapacitated adult in Massachusetts can help minimize delays. For additional information on this topic, visit the Probate and Family Court section of the Mass.gov website.