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Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is elder law?
    Elder law is planning for Seniors that involves coordinating planning in many different, but complementary areas including:

    - Durable Powers of Attorney
    - Estate Planning and Probate
    - Asset Protection
    - Financing Long-Term Care
    - Guardianship and Conservatorship
    - Health Care Quality Issues
    - Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security
    - Trusts
  • When is a guardianship necessary?
    If you have not given anyone legal authority to act in your place (via the use of a durable power of attorney or a health care proxy) and you are no longer able to make your own decisions regarding health care and financial matters, the courts might be asked to appoint someone to take responsibility for your affairs.
  • What is Medicare?
    Medicare is a government sponsored insurance program for the elderly and disabled. To qualify for Medicare you must:

    - Be over 65 and eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement
    - Be disabled and have received Social Security or Railroad Retirement for at least two years
    - Be over 65 and pay for Medicare coverage.
    Medicare covers certain basic services, including:
    - Inpatient hospital services
    - Doctor visits
    - Surgery
    - Medical and surgical dental services
    - Laboratory and X-ray services
  • What is Medicaid?
    Medicaid is a health care program financed by both the state and federal governments. In Massachusetts, Medicaid is known as MassHealth. MassHealth pays for health care for certain low- and medium-income people living in Massachusetts who are under age 65 and who are not living in nursing homes or other long term care facilities, including:

    - Families with children under age 19
    - Children under age 19
    - Pregnant women
    - People out of work for a long time
    - Disabled people
    - Adults who work for a qualified employer
    - Certain persons aged 65 or older may also be eligible for MassHealth.
  • What is a guardian?
    A guardian is a representative who oversees the personal affairs and finances of a person who is unable to do so, as in the case of a child or an incapacitated person (known as the ward). A guardianship may be established by a will or by court order.
  • Who usually petitions the court for guardianship?
    Usually, a close family member petitions for guardianship.
  • How is a guardian appointed?
    A petition for guardianship is a detailed process that requires the expertise of an attorney who is familiar with this area of the law and who will file the necessary papers with the appropriate court. Sometimes, a guardianship may not be necessary. An attorney can advise you of various alternatives to guardianship that might still be viable options.

    A petition for guardianship is not treated casually by the courts. The person for whom the guardianship is proposed must be given notice of the petition, has a right to be present at a hearing on the petition, has the right to present witnesses and cross-examine witnesses, and may be entitled to a court-appointed attorney if he or she is unable to hire an attorney.
  • What if someone had filed a petition to appoint a guardian for me?
    If a petition to appoint a guardian for you has been filed, it is important that you immediately contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area of law. The attorney can advise you about the procedures involved in the process and the choices available to you. Together with your attorney, you will need to determine whether to oppose the petition, oppose the particularly proposed guardian, limit the legal authority of the guardian, or offer alternative solutions to a guardianship.
  • What obligations and rights does a guardian have?
    A guardian appointed by a court has the right to make personal, health care and financial decisions for an incapacitated person (known as the ward). A guardian generally has the right to make the same types of decisions for the ward as a parent may make for minor children.
  • What is Social Security?
    Social Security is an insurance program that covers most of the United States work force. It is often thought of as a retirement plan to which other benefits are added. It provides retirement, disability, survivor, and Medicare benefits.
  • What is long-term care?
    Long-term care is care provided to persons with long term diseases or disabilities, and includes health and social services, rehabilitative, skilled nursing, and other supportive care or supervision provided over an extended period of time. The goal of long-term care is to help people with disabilities be as independent as possible.
  • What is a nursing home?
    A nursing home is a licensed resident facility that provides long-term care around the clock to individuals who are unable to take care of their daily needs due to illness, age or disability. Services provided by nursing homes include room and board, skilled nursing care, and personal care.
  • How much does nursing home care cost?
    Nursing homes are very costly and average around $7,000 and $11,000 per month, depending on geographic location and medical need.
  • What is the difference between a guardian of the person and a guardian of the property?
    A person may be appointed Guardian of the Person, Guardian of the Property, or both. The court determines the guardian's legal authority based on the particular circumstances. If a person is unable to take care of his or her financial affairs, a guardian of the property is appointed. A guardian of the property may take possession of the ward's assets and is obligated to protect, invest and use them for the ward's benefit.

    If a person is unable to make health care decisions, a guardian of the person is appointed. A guardian of the person may determine where the ward will live, what type of medical treatment he or she receives, and most other aspects of the ward's life. If a person cannot make financial or health care decisions, a guardian of both the person and the property will be appointed, and will be responsible for all of the above.

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