We all hope our loved ones live a happy, healthy life and die simply of natural causes. Unfortunately, good health is not a guarantee, both physically and mentally. Alzheimer’s and dementia can strike our elderly loved ones, and a heart attack or stroke can cause a coma, robbing our loved ones of their memories and ability to care for themselves. When this happens, it may be time to seek guardianship over our incapacitated loved one.
Guardianship in Massachusetts
A guardianship is the means of giving someone legal authority to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person and to care for an adult who has become incapacitated.
In Massachusetts, guardianship does not happen automatically — it is a legal process in which the Probate and Family Court appoints an individual to serve as a guardian. Guardians are appointed to people who are incapacitated.
What does it mean to be incapacitated?
It is important to note that old age alone is not enough for a person to be considered incapacitated for guardianship purposes. To be incapacitated, a person must have a clinically diagnosed medical condition that makes them unable to receive and evaluate information or to communicate decisions to the extent that they are unable to manage their physical health, safety or self-care.
The duties of a guardian
The responsibilities of a guardian are many. Guardians must make decisions that are in the best interests of the incapacitated individual and that reflect that individual’s desires and personal values. There is paperwork that must be filed with the court annually, and if the guardian’s address or the incapacitated individual’s address changes the court must be informed. Once the incapacitated individual passes away, the guardian must notify the court and file a copy of the individual’s death certificate.
Being appointed a guardian is an honor, but it is also a responsibility. When you feel a loved one needs a guardian or if you have been appointed a guardian over a loved one, it is important to understand your legal rights and responsibilities. Elder law attorneys in eastern Massachusetts may be a useful resource in such situations.