Alternatives to Guardianship in Massachusetts

Adults in Massachusetts who are unable to make decisions about their own medical care, finances, and other important matters may require a legal guardian. However, it is worth noting that guardianship, though necessary in some situations, can excessively limit an individual’s rights and freedoms. What if we told you there were alternatives to guardianship? We are here to explain your options and ensure your rights are well-preserved.

Understanding Guardianship in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts probate court can appoint a guardian for an adult (formally known as a ward) who, due to physical or mental health conditions, is unable to manage their own financial decisions, healthcare, or everyday matters.

A legal guardian will typically make decisions about the ward’s medical treatment, handle their finances, including Medicare and SSI benefits, and decide on their housing arrangements. While in some situations full guardianship is unavoidable, this legal choice can take all decision-making powers out of an individual’s hands. Hence, exploring alternatives becomes crucial.

Viable Alternatives to Guardianship

Here are some potential alternatives to guardianship in Massachusetts:

Conservatorship: Here, a conservator’s duties typically revolve around handling the incapacitated person’s finances.

Durable power of attorney (POA): This is a legal document that allows an individual to appoint a trusted agent to make decisions on their behalf in case they become incapacitated.

Living will: Also known as an advanced medical directive, this legal instrument states a person’s wishes regarding their medical care—specifically in end-of-life scenarios.

Medical proxy: This is someone who can make decisions about medical care on an individual’s behalf, often on a short-term basis in cases of temporary incapacity.

Representative payee: This is a person whom an individual appoints to collect and manage their Social Security benefits.

The Importance of Planning Ahead to Avoid Guardianship

The primary way to avoid guardianship is through advance planning. Creating documents like powers of attorney and living wills require the principal to have full mental capacity. Since no one can predict when they may lose their capacity to make legal decisions, it is crucial to include these provisions in your estate plan. By doing so, you protect your rights and save your family from the ordeal of initiating guardianship proceedings.

Reach Out to Casey Lundregan Burns, P.C. in Massachusetts

It is clear that understanding and managing estate planning matters can be complex, but you do not have to do it alone. We, at Casey Lundregan Burns, P.C., have over 90 years of experience guiding our clients through their estate planning process. Whether you need to explore alternatives to guardianship or need advice on your overall estate plan, our team is here to assist. To explore the right estate planning strategies for you, call us at 978-741-3888 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with our experienced team in Salem, Massachusetts.