The guardian's responsibilities

Guardians have specific legal responsibilities.

You must understand them before choosing a guardian and starting the process.

Responsibilities include:

  • Make sure the person is getting all the care and services they need

  • Give consent for medical care and decisions

  • Sign legal documents

  • Keep all records (legal, medical, financial, etc.)

  • Send annual reports to the Court

Click the boxes below to learn more:

A guardian is required to:

  • Encourage your family member’s independence and ability to act on personal choices whenever possible.

  • Protect their rights. If there are concerns that your family member’s rights have been violated, the guardian must report the concern to their agency, case manager, or the Disabled Persons Protection Commission at 1-800-426-9009.

  • Ensure that they are getting all possible public benefits. These may include case management, day or residential programs, transportation, and a housing subsidy. You may need to apply for funding from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) or Department of Mental Health(DMH), or hire an advocate or benefits manager.

  • Ensure safety, shelter, food, clothing, and access to medical care.

 However, a guardian is NOT required to:

  • Provide hands-on care

  • Take your family member into their home

  • Be financially responsible for your family member


Sources: Commonwealth of MA, Jackins (2010), MA Guardianship Association

Guardians may need to approve medical procedures and medicines for your family member. Guardians should: a) know all relevant information about the medical decision by talking to doctors and doing research; b) involve your family member in the medical decision, if possible; make sure to put your family member first! and c) get second opinions from doctors, as needed.

Source: Jackins (2010)

Financial duties

  • A guardian does NOT need to use their own money to support the person.

  • Guardians sign financial forms like leases or loans on behalf of your family member. To be protected from financial responsibility, themselves, the guardian would sign like this:

Sample signature of Simon Smith, by his legal guardian Paula Smith

  • Guardians have a right to charge for their services. Usually, parents or close family members who are guardians choose not to. Professional guardians may charge an hourly rate, based on their experience and the type of tasks they do. This may require court approval.

Source: Jackins (2010)

Guardians must keep any paperwork related to your family member’s legal, medical, or financial matters.

There are no official rules about how long to keep records for, but experts recommend at least 10 years.

For example:

  • Legal records:Copies of court paperwork, including the guardianship appointment

  • Medical records:Reports from medical exams, lab reports, consent forms, medicine information, insurance paperwork.

  • Financial records:Bank account statements, tax returns

  • Personal records:Individualized Education Program (IEP) and progress notes, Individual Service Plan (ISP) and progress notes

Source: Jackins (2010)

The guardian must file reports with the Court, and give copies of the report to your family member and any others who are listed on the petition. You will learn more about this process later in the Guide.

  • Within 60 days of being appointed, the guardian must file a Care Plan Report. This describes the plan for your family member’s care, and how the guardian will be involved in decisions.

  • Every year, the guardian must file an Annual Report. This includes information like your family member’s overall status, living situation, money situation, and a summary of the guardian’s contacts with them.


Source: Jackins (2010)


The Massachusetts Guardianship Association also publishes a helpful handbook - click the link below to download a PDF of the handbook.


Sources: Jackins (2010), Kopley (2012), MA Guardianship Association