Understanding Guardianship And Conservatorship

Effective July 1, 2009, the Commonwealth's new Probate Code makes significant changes to the objectives of guardianship and the roles of guardians. It also creates new alternatives to guardianship that recognize that a person's incapacity might not affect all physical or cognitive functions.

The attorneys of Seder & Chandler are thoroughly familiar with the broad implications and practical details of our new guardianship laws. To benefit from our experience with the best ways to protect the interests of elderly persons or minor children who cannot look after themselves, contact us today. With offices in Worcester and Westborough, we are well-situated to serve clients throughout central Massachusetts and the MetroWest Boston area.

Get Used To The New Terms: Guardians And Conservators

It is important to be familiar with new terminology under the new statute M.G.L. c.190B. Before the new laws came into effect, a person could be appointed as a conservator strictly to manage another persons money, property or financial affairs. A person appointed to look after the personal care of another was known as a guardian. You could serve as the guardian of the person or the guardian of the estate or both, depending on the nature and extent of incapacity and the services to be rendered by the guardian.

Under the newly revised statutes, the person for whom guardianship is requested is no longer a "ward", but an "incapacitated person". The term "guardianship" now refers only to cases involving matters of personal care, health care, daily living and other matters that will not involve the management of the incapacitated person's money, property and financial affairs. If a person needs assistance with the management of money or property, concerned relatives will need to obtain letters of conservatorship in the Probate and Family Court.

The same person can serve as both guardian and conservator of the same in capacitated person, but the functions can be divided between two persons as well. Separate cases will need to be opened, and the reporting responsibilities are somewhat different.

The new laws explicitly recognize that guardianship and conservatorship are inherently intrusive procedures that restrict the liberties of people with disabilities of various kinds. That is why the decision to seek guardianship can be so difficult for families, or why an elderly person might resist the appointment of a guardian.

Our lawyers can explain how such new alternatives as limited guardianship or protective orders can balance the competing interests between individual freedom and protecting vulnerable persons from neglect, abuse or exploitation. Many clients will benefit from our ability to help avoid the need for guardianship through comprehensive estate planning.

For dependable advice about the need for a guardian or conservator in your case, for the effect of the new rules on current guardianships, or about a guardian's decisions after appointment, contact Seder & Chandler.