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How do I get a guardian for a friend who has end stage liver cancer?

Haverhill, MA |
Attorney answers 4


How awful for your friend. The first question is: what is the extent of his incapacity? If he is unable due to illness to make decisions regarding his medical treatment or daily care, then a guardian is needed. If he is unable to due illness to make decisions regarding his financial affaors, then a conservator is needed.

In either case, a physician will need to attest to your friend's disability and/or inability to make these decisions, and then a petition seeking the appointment of either (or both) needs to be filed with the Probate & Family Court in the county where your friend lives, together with the physician's certificate. The petition will seek the appointment of the guardian/conservator, presumably you, at this point, to make those decisions on your friend's behalf.

You should consult with an attorney in this field.

Best wishes to you and your friend.

No attorney-client relatonship is created in responding to this question, and advice provided is based solely on very limited facts presented, and therefore may not be correct. You are advised that it is always best to contact a competent and experienced with the practice of law in the county in which you reside, particularly as it relates to family law, child support, custody and visitation (a/k/a "parenting time") issues, including 209A abuse-prevention restraining orders (a/k/a "ROs" in legal-speak), regarding un-emancipated children, under the age of 22.


Capacity for the purpose of medical decision making is a pretty low bar. It just means that he has the ability to make informed decisions about his care (even if those decisions might not be ones you'd agree with).

If your friend has enough capacity to be able to make his own medical decisions, he should work with an elder law or estate planning attorney to get his affairs in order. He should have a Health Care Proxy, which will appoint the person of his choice to make medical decisions in the event of incapacity. He should have a HIPAA Release, so that the person(s) of his choice can help him with medical and insurance issues if he's competent but weak. He also should have a Durable Power of Attorney, so that someone can help him with his financial and legal affairs. And finally, he needs a will -- if he has any property and no family, he needs to be sure that someone will have the authority to dispose of his assets after death and leave specific, legally binding instructions about who to give those assets to.

If he doesn't have capacity, you'd need to file guardianship at the Probate Court. You'd need to either have a medical certificate or ask the court to order an examination. Information and forms are here: This procedure takes time -- and if your friend has capacity now, should be avoided in favor of getting the necessary legal documents and counseling.

E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question.


The first issue is whether your friend still has capacity to make his own decisions. His doctor should be able to advise you as to capacity. If he has capacity, he can sign a Power of Attorney for Healthcare so you (or whoever he chooses) can handle his medical decisions and Power of Attorney for Property for financial matters. If he does not have capacity, someone will need to file a guardianship to act for him. If he is near death, you might be able to get a temporary guardianship that goes into effect right away, instead of 60-90 days timeframe for most guardianship cases. If you wish to act as his guardian, you would be the petitioner and you should hire an attorney for this process. A state agency or private agency can also step in and act for him; this usually depends on his assets.


Can you get a power of attorney and health care proxy from your friend

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