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Protecting Massachusetts incapacitated adults and minor children

Every day, residents in Massachusetts are faced with making the decision to protect a loved one from himself or herself. Whether they are protecting an incapacitated adult or minor children, family members will need some legal authority to act on one's behalf. Without such authority, a person's health and assets are vulnerable.

If an adult created an estate plan that included powers of attorney for health care and finances, his or her agent has the necessary legal authority to act as soon as that adult is declared incapacitated. Therefore, if an individual wants to maintain control over who will take care of these important issues on his or her behalf in the event that he or she is no longer able to, creating an estate plan is essential. However, if these documents do not exist, a family member can ask the Massachusetts courts to appoint him or her as a guardian and/or conservator to serve the same functions.

Minor children often need someone to take control of assets they have either inherited or received as the result of a settlement or court judgment, since minors are not allowed to own these assets outright until they reach the age of majority. Moreover, if the parents of a minor child are no longer able to raise him or her for whatever reason, the child needs someone to care for him or her. A child's parents can appoint a guardian in their wills and use other estate-planning documents to provide for the child. In the absence of those preparations, the court can appoint a guardian and/or conservator as needed.

When prior arrangements are made, the care of minor children and incapacitated adults can be a virtually seamless transition. However, that does not mean that these vulnerable groups of people will be without care for their assets and health. Someone versed in estate planning can help ensure that those who need it are protected whether through pre-planning or court action when necessary.

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