When a person is unable to care for themselves or manage their affairs on their own, the court may appoint a guardian, a conservator, or both. Guardianship and conservatorship in Massachusetts are both large legal responsibilities that require an understanding of each role’s expectations. If you are applying to be a guardian or conservator, please reach out to our experienced family law attorney for the legal help you need. 

What Is a Guardian?

Guardianship refers to a legal relationship where one person is appointed by the court to make decisions on the behalf of another person. A full, or general, guardian has the right to make all decisions regarding the incapacitated person’s education, finances, healthcare, etc; a limited guardianship, on the other hand, allows the incapacitated person to participate in the decision-making process to the extent they are able.

Note that there are guardians for minors and incapacitated adults. Guardianships for minors are similar to guardianships for adults. In a guardianship involving a minor, the adult guardian is given the legal authority to make decisions on the child’s behalf, and is also responsible for the child’s care. 

What Is a Conservator?

A conservator is different from a guardian in that a conservator is only responsible for making decisions about a person’s property and financial matters. A conservator does not have the authority to make decisions for a person outside of this realm; for example, a conservator cannot make healthcare or education decisions on a person’s behalf. 

How to Become a Guardian or Conservator of a Child vs. Adult

To become a guardian of a minor, a person must be an adult (18 years of age), living in the U.S., and cannot have any criminal record. A guardian may be appointed by the court in the event of the death of the child’s parents, or if the child’s parents are deemed unfit or/and unavailable to provide care for the child. A judge makes a guardianship decision based on the child’s best interests. 

To become a guardian of an adult or conservator, you need to file a petition with the Probate and Family Court. A Medical Certificate signed by a licensed professional will also be required. After the petition is filed, a hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, the judge will review the information presented and grant conservatorship if appropriate. 

The Law Office of Heather M. Ward Can Help

Whether you are seeking guardianship or conservatorship of a child or an adult, or if you want to change the terms of an existing guardianship/conservatorship relationship, our family law attorney at the Law Office of Heather M. Ward can help. Attorney Heather M. Ward has experience working on conservatorship and guardianship cases, and knows how much is on the line when a loved one needs care. To learn more about our law firm and how we can help you navigate the court system, reach out to us directly by phone at (617) 903-8955 or online at your convenience.