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Massachusetts law about guardians and caregivers

A compilation of laws, cases, and web sources on caregivers, guardianship, and conservatorship in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Best bet

Guardianship, Mass. Trial Court
The information in this section helps you understand the legal process of guardianship, the role of a guardian, and the required forms when you file for guardianship.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.190B, Article V. Guardianship and conservatorship of children and incapacitated adults
Provides procedures to allow guardians to be appointed while also protecting the individuals' civil rights and autonomy.

  • See also, amended MGL c.190B, § 5-212 (effective April, 2021)
    In a petition to remove a guardian of a minor child, the guardian shall have a right to counsel if the guardian has been the primary caretaker for the child for at least 2 years or for an otherwise significant period of time during the child’s life.

MGL c.190B, Article 5A. Uniform adult guardianship and protective proceedings jurisdiction. 
Provides a procedure for situations in which a caregiver lives in another state, or when the person involved lives in more than 1 state.

MGL c.201F Caregivers
A simpler process that may allow a caregiver to make decisions about education and health care for a child.

Selected cases

Guardianship of K.N., 476 Mass. 762 (2017) 
A probate and family court judge could use sound discretion to appoint counsel for an indigent guardian in a removal contest under the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, G.L.c. 190B, §5-212.

Guardianship of Kelvin, 94 Mass. App. Ct. 448 (2018)
Explains the burden of proof in a petition to remove a guardian. The "mother had the initial burden... of producing some credible evidence of changed circumstances since the initial guardianship determination...  Once the mother satisfied this burden of production, the guardian then bore the ultimate burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that the mother remained unfit and that continuation of the guardianship served Kelvin's best interest."

Guardianship of V.V., 470 Mass. 590 (2015)
A "parent whose minor child is the subject of a guardianship proceeding pursuant to G. L. c. 190B, § 5-206, and who cannot afford counsel has a right to have counsel appointed and to be so informed."

L.B. v. Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court Dept., 474 Mass. 231 (2016)
"When an indigent parent who is not represented by counsel seeks... to remove a guardian who has been appointed for a minor child,...the parent has a due process right to counsel to prosecute such a petition, and to be informed of this right, provided the parent presents a meritorious claim for removal...similarly, ... an indigent parent who petitions to modify the terms of a guardianship by seeking a substantial change in the provisions for visitation is entitled as a matter of due process to counsel, and to be informed of this right, provided the parent presents a meritorious claim."

Web sources

Guardians and other caregivers, MassLegalHelp.
Explains difference between guardianship and caregiver and discusses the resignation and removal of guardians.

Learn about the difference between guardians and caregivers
You may be able to become a legal caregiver instead of a guardian. This is a much simpler process than guardianship, and no forms need to be filed in court. Find out what the difference between guardians and caregivers is and what kinds of decisions they can make for minors.

Limitations to guardianship for attorneys and judges and Limitations to guardianship for clinicians Mass. Probate and Family Court
Provides examples of types of limitations that can be applied to guardianship under the Mass. Uniform Probate Code.

MUPC Article V procedural outline for guardianship of an incapacitated person, conservatorship of a protected person, Mass. Probate and Family Court, 2009
"The contents of this outline are intended to provide general guidance to Court staff in the handling of Guardianship of Incapacitated Persons and Conservatorship cases." It does not cover guardianship of minor cases. Provides guidance on a wide variety of procedural issues.

Parents have the right to a court-appointed lawyer in guardianship cases, Mass. Legal Help, 2016
"If your child is under 18 and involved in a guardianship case, you have the right to a lawyer. If your income is so low you cannot afford a lawyer, you have the right to a court-appointed lawyer." Explains when and how to have a lawyer appointed.

Print sources

Elder law (Mass. practice v.56), Thomson West, annual.

Fundamentals of guardianship, ABA, Senior Lawyers Division, 2017.
Guardianship and its alternatives – The guardianship process -- Rights of individuals under guardianship -- Roles of the guardian -- Fiduciary principles -- Guardian of the person -- Abuse and neglect -- Guardian of the estate – Guardianship modification.

Guardianship and conservatorship in Massachusetts, Lexis, with supplement.

Guardianship and conservatorship practice under the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, 4th ed., MCLE, loose-leaf

Massachusetts elder law, 2d ed., Lexis, 2008 with supplement.

Pro bono manual guardianship, Community Legal Aid, 2016.
Anatomy of a case: a step-by-step guide -- Alternatives to guardianship in Massachusetts -- Overview of the guardianship process -- Court forms when filing a petition for guardianship -- Going to court -- Post-guardianship -- Case studies.

Summary of basic law (Mass. practice v. 14-14D), Thomson Reuters, with supplement.



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: January 15, 2021