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What is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal way to protect young adults who cannot care for themselves or make decisions in their own best interest. An appointed guardian has legal authority to make decision on behalf of the person with a disability. There are 2 types of guardianship: Full (Plenary) and Limited (Partial) Guardianship.

With Full (Plenary) Guardianship, the appointed guardian makes all decisions on behalf of the individual, including areas of healthcare, housing, and finances. The individual's decision-making rights are restricted across all areas of life

With Limited (Partial) Guardianship, the appointment guardian makes decisions on behalf of the individual in specific areas of life while the individual is able to make decisions in all other areas. Specific areas of decision making must be identified when applying for partial guardianship


The PATH Program, alongside your child's School Team and primary Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician (DBP) can help you determine if guardianship might be appropriate for your child.

How to Apply for Guardianship

  • Applications can be submitted:

    • In Person at the Probate and Family Court where the child lives

    • By Mail to the Probate and Family Court in your area/where the child lives

    • Online through the Court System Website:

  • The state of Massachusetts offers assistance with completing guardianship documentation at the following locations:

    • Suffolk County Probate & Family Court

      • Address: 24 New Chardon Street, Boston, MA 02114

        • 2nd Floor Brooke Courthouse in Court Service Center

      • Hours: Tuesdays 9AM-1PM

    • Middlesex County Probate & Family Court

      • Address: 10-U Commerce Way Woburn, MA 01801

        • 2nd Floor

      • Hours: Thursdays 10AM-1PM

  • Court Service Centers are located throughout the state of Massachusetts and provide computer access, assistance with filling out forms, and interpreter services

    • Boston: 24 New Chardon Street, 2nd Floor, Boston MA 02114

    • Brockton: 215 Main Street, 1st Floor, Brockton, MA 02301

    • Greenfield: 43 Hope Street, Greenfield, MA 01301

    • Lawrence: 2 Appleton Street, 2nd Floor, Law Library, Lawrence, MA 01840

    • Lowell: 370 Jackson Street, Lowell, MA 01852

    • Springfield: 50 State Street, 1st Floor, Springfield, MA 01102

    • Worcester: 225 Main Street, 1st Floor, Worcester, MA 01608

  • Read more about the process here:

Who Can Become a Guardian?

A guardian is any adult who applies for guardianship on behalf of a youth or young adult with a disability and is then appointed appointed by the Probate and Family Court. Individuals who are currently being investigated, have pending charges for committing assault and battery or are currently being investigated for neglecting the incapacitated person cannot become a court-appointed guardian.

It is recommended that more than one trusted adult apply for guardianship. This is to ensure that your child is protected in the case that the first appointed guardian is found incapacitated at a later point.

Required Documentation

  1. Petition for Appointment of Guardian for an Incapacitated Person (MPC 120)

  2. Medical Certificate (MPC 400)

    • This document must be signed by a physician, licensed psychologist, or certified psychiatric nurse clinical specialist within 30 days of when the petition is filed

  3. Bond (MPC 801)

  4. Additional Documentation may be required depending on your child's circumstances

What To Expect Once You File For Guardianship

Appointment of counsel (in other words, obtaining a lawyer) is NOT required unless the guardian is seeking authority for psychotropic medication (a Rogers Authority). In that case, the court will appoint an attorney paid for by the state. A lawyer is appointed if it is requested by the youth or anyone on their behalf or if the judge believes it is in the best interest of the youth. The requested guardian must appear before a judge in court at a scheduled hearing. At this hearing, all of the information is presented to the judge. If no one contests the proceedings, meaning they disagree with the guardianship, the judge will make a decision during the hearing.

Once you are appointed as the guardian, you must submit a Guardian's Care Plan/Report within 60 days of being appointed. This report must then be filed every year.

Link to Guardian's Care Plan/Report:

Responsibilities of a Guardian

The guardian acts in the best interest of the young adult and takes the person's desires and personal values into consideration when making decisions. The guardian acts only as necessary due to the person's limitations and encourages the young adult to participate in decision making

The guardian must submit an Initial Guardian Plan Report (MPC 821) within 60 days of being appointed guardian. The guardian must submit an Annual Guardian Report (MPC 821) annually (every year) on the anniversary of the guardian's appointment. The guardian must inform the court if the young adult or the guardian has a change of address. Changes can be made the the guardian's authority by submitting a request to Expand/Modify/Limit the Powers of the Guardian (MPC 220)

Talk with your child's Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician (DBP), Primary Care Provider (PCP), and School Team about whether guardianship would be appropriate for your child. 

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