Know these 3 Basics about Guardianship

 1. Why is Guardianship important?

When a child turns 18 in Massachusetts, parents no longer have the legal right to make decisions for him or her. Yet many children with disabilities need help making decisions after they turn 18. These decisions fall in key areas of life like:

  • Education
  • Housing
  • Health care
  • Insurance
  • Safety

This is where guardianship comes in.Guardianship means that another person, called the guardian, is appointed to make some or all decisions for a person with disabilities. It’s often a parent, but not always.

2. Is full guardianship right for my child?

With guardianship, it’s not all-or-nothing. If your child needs help making decisions in some areas of life, but not others, there are a number of options to full guardianship that are available. These include:

  • Supported or shared decision-making
  • Health care proxy
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Conservatorship
  • Limited guardianship

3. When is the right time to start thinking about Guardianship?

As a general rule, parents of children with disabilities should begin thinking about guardianship when your child turns 17.

If you decide guardianship is right for your child, you’ll need to fill out and submit a form to your local Probate and Family Court. You should do this four months prior to your child’s 18th birthday, according the Massachusetts Guardianship Association. And although it’s easier to have the guardianship in place by the time your child turns 18, the courts allow guardianship petitions at any age.

Next Steps

When your child turns 17 and it’s time to take steps to explore guardianship, check out our FREE Exceptional Lives Guardianship Guide.

The Exceptional Lives team is available to answer any questions you may have along the way. Give us a call at 1-844-628-4866 or send us an email at

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