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Guardianships protect people, but also affect their rights

Through illness, accident or disability, many Massachusetts residents are no longer able to care for themselves or their property. In these cases, family members or other trusted individuals might seek guardianships in order to take care of the incapacitated person (often referred to as the ward). However, the decision to do so should not be taken lightly since many of the ward's rights are taken away in the process.

If a guardian is appointed, the ward will no longer have the right to choose where to live, get married or vote. Furthermore, the ward will no longer be able to make his or her health care decisions -- including end-of-life choices. He or she will not be able to sell, buy or manage property and will no longer be allowed to have a driver's license. Ownership of a weapon (including guns), entering into contracts or filing lawsuits are also rights that are taken away.

Therefore, a significant amount of due process is involved before a Massachusetts court will appoint a guardian for an incapacitated adult. A statutory legal process will have to be followed, including certain actions that must be taken by the guardian once appointed. This includes appearing before the court periodically (often at least annually) in order to determine whether the need for a guardian still exists.

The guardian is taking on an immense responsibility, and it is the court's duty to ensure that this step is necessary. In addition, the court will want to be as sure as possible that the person being appointed has the best interests of the potential ward at heart since that person will have significant control over the ward's daily life and future. Considering the complexity and importance of the process, if an individual believes that a guardianship is necessary in order to protect a loved one, he or she should seek the assistance of an attorney who is familiar with the implementation and maintenance of guardianships.

Source: guardianship.org, "What is Guardianship", Accessed on Aug. 12, 2016

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