The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts rules that lower courts erred in denying a grandfather’s request to intervene as an interested person seeking to limit his granddaughter’s guardianship, finding that the grandfather qualifies as an interested person because he is interested in the welfare of an incapacitated person and not because of any personal interest that he may have in the proceedings.  Guardianship of B.V.G. (Mass., No. SJC-11925, May 23, 2016).

B.V.G. has intellectual disabilities, Tourette syndrome and emotional difficulties.  When B.V.G. turned 18, her father petitioned for guardianship and was named as B.V.G.’s temporary guardian.  Then, claiming authority as her guardian, the father prevented B.V.G.’s maternal relatives from seeing her, leading her grandfather to file a motion to intervene in the guardianship pursuant to a statute allowing an “interested person” to petition the court to limit a guardian’s powers and allow him greater access to his granddaughter.  

A probate court judge ruled that the grandfather did not qualify as an interested person because he did not have a financial or tangible interest in B.V.G.’s case.  The appeals court upheld the probate court’s decision, but did so based on its determination that B.V.G.’s interests were already adequately represented by counsel and a guardian ad litem, making her grandfather’s interest irrelevant.  

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the state’s highest court, overturns the lower courts, finding that B.V.G.’s grandfather qualifies as an interested person entitled to intervention under the statute because the “legislature intended [the statute] to provide a means by which an individual interested in the welfare of an incapacitated person could advocate on behalf of that person’s interests in obtaining such a limited guardianship.”  The court goes on to find that B.V.G.’s grandfather meets this criteria because the statute, “on its face, entitles an ‘interested person,’ one we have concluded is interested in the welfare of the incapacitated person, to intervene to limit a guardianship. . . [o]nce a judge has concluded that a proposed intervener is an ‘interested person,’ therefore, nothing more is required to establish that person’s entitlement to intervene as of right.”

To read the full text of the court’s decision, go to:  http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/sjc/reporter-of-decisions/new-opinions/11925.pdf