A guardianship is a legal relationship in which one person makes decisions for another.  These are commonly needed when a person is either a minor or an incapacitated adult.

These links explain in general terms what these words mean:

Guardianships are needed in many different circumstances, but these are very common:

  • An elderly parent who can longer make decisions
  • A minor whose parent or parents cannot care for them
  • A developmentally disabled child who is turning 18

The paperwork needed for each of these circumstances is different.  In Massachusetts, the forms are available here:

In addition to a guardianship, incapacitated adults may need a conservatorship.  A conservator is a person who handles the finances for an incapacitated person.

In theory, you can petition for guardianship for another person on your own, but it’s a good idea to work with an attorney because of the practicalities of the process:

  • There are specific requirements for providing notice, especially when parents or other family members cannot be found.
  • Temporary guardianships expire after a certain time or after certain conditions are met.
  • Guardianships are frequently limited in scope.  For example, guardianship may extend only to education, public assistance, or health care matters.
  • A guardian has ongoing accountability to the court.

Obtaining guardianship for another person is a serious matter, and not something most of us seek out eagerly.  A good attorney will work with you throughout the process.