Understanding the types of guardianships in Massachusetts

On Behalf of | May 8, 2024 | Family Law

Guardianship is a legal process used to protect individuals who cannot take care of themselves or manage their own affairs. This includes both minors and adults who may be incapacitated due to various reasons.

In Massachusetts, the law recognizes several types of guardianships, each designed to meet different needs.

Guardianship of minors

When parents are unable to care for their children, whether due to illness, death, or other circumstances, the court can appoint a guardian. This guardian takes responsibility for the child’s physical and emotional well-being and makes decisions about education, health care and living arrangements. The guardian acts in a role similar to that of a parent until the child reaches adulthood or the court decides it is no longer necessary.

Guardianship of incapacitated adults

Adults who cannot make decisions for themselves due to mental illness, dementia, or other incapacities may need a guardian. This type of guardianship helps ensure that the adult’s needs for health care, food and shelter are met. A court appoints a guardian when it finds that an individual lacks the capacity to make informed decisions about their personal care.

Limited guardianship

Limited guardianship is an option when a person does not need full guardianship. Under this arrangement, the guardian has the authority to make decisions in specific areas where the individual lacks capacity. This allows the individual to retain as much independence as possible while still receiving necessary support.

Temporary guardianship

In cases where an immediate decision is necessary to prevent harm to an individual, a court can appoint a temporary guardian. This type of guardianship is short-term and lasts only as long as it takes to resolve the emergency situation.


While similar to guardianship, conservatorship focuses specifically on financial affairs rather than personal welfare. A conservator manages an individual’s finances, making decisions about property, income and expenses. This is often necessary when individuals cannot make safe or sound decisions regarding their assets.

Each type of guardianship in Massachusetts serves a distinct purpose. It ensures that individuals who cannot protect themselves or manage their own affairs have someone who can make decisions on their behalf. The process involves careful legal proceedings to ensure that the arrangement serves the best interests of the person under guardianship.