Deciding how much help your family member needs

If it seems that guardianship may be the best option for your family member, the next step is to think about how much help they will need with making decisions.

There are 2 main types in Massachusetts:

Full Guardianship is when a Guardian makes all the decisions for your family member. Limited Guardianship is when a Guardian AND your family member work together to share decision-making.

Click the button below to read more about how these options are different:

Under Full Guardianship, the guardian makes all major decisions for the person with disabilities, including medical care, living arrangements, work, signing contracts and leases, applying for credit cards, etc. Under Limited Guardianship, the guardian makes certain decisions for the person, but the person can also make other decisions for themselves. For example, under limited guardianship, a guardian makes the medical decisions, but the person with disabilities can make choices in other areas of life. The Court prefers limited guardianship over full guardianship because it offers the family member with disabilities more independence.

State law favors limited guardianship instead of full, since limited guardianship means more independence for the person with a disability.

What you can do:

  • Talk about the options with your family member, a lawyer, and other helpful people such as teachers, case managers, and doctors. Ask what they think is best, and why.

  • Think about your family member's ability to make decisions across different areas of life.

  • Carefully consider whether limited guardianship would be enough for them.

  • Involve your family member in these discussions as much as possible.

  • Consider getting help from a lawyer at this stage.


Sources: Jackins (2010), Ulwick (2010)