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Under Massachusetts General Laws c.190B, sections 5-210 and 5-310, guardianship of both minors and incapacitated adults ends with the death of the ward.

While this seems logical, it means that after the death of the ward, the guardian does not have the authority to plan the ward’s funeral. Guardians may wish to consider this issue and plan accordingly. In A Handbook for Guardians of Nursing Home Residents in Massachusetts, for example, the author suggests:

“One of the most important tasks for a guardian of an elderly ward is to recognize the reality that the issue of “final expenses” must be addressed. A guardianship should know or learn what the ward would like to have planned in terms of funeral, burial, or other final arrangements. Guardians are encouraged to make such arrangements well in advance of the need and to fund such pre-need contracts when there are funds available, even if the funding has to be in increments. Because a guardian’s authority ends with the death of the ward, by then it is too late to make any such arrangements. Under the law, the remains of the deceased are the property of the heirs at law. A guardian is well advised to consult with a funeral director for further information on pre-paying funeral arrangements and organ donor and autopsy information.”

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