We are all protected by certain legal rights that seek to provide each of us with fair treatment and quality care, safe from discrimination, fear or abuse.

Understanding your legal rights, benefits, and responsibilities is important in order for you to make the best of services and supports.

Use the menus below to find subjects that best match your needs. The Planning Ahead section addresses issues, such as living wills, powers of attorney, conservators and other legal matters that are important to understand when planning for your future. The Consumer Rights section will help you recognize and understand your rights within the system of Services & Supports for older adults and persons with disabilities. The Where To Get Help  section will point you to organizations that can provide additional information and help.

Planning Ahead

Your Rights to Make Health Care Decisions

There are many  ways you can plan ahead for your health care when you can no longer make decisions for yourself or are nearing the end of your life. Sometimes these are called “Advance Directives.” Find out more about these options below. 

Appoint a Health Care Representative

You can appoint, or choose, an individual that you know and trust to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. This is done by completing an “Appointment of Health Care Representative” form, which you can download here.

Living Will

Your living will is a  legal document that outlines all of the health care decisions you want to be made toward  the end of your life.  This document can also include information about medical treatments you would like to get if, for whatever reason, you are unable to communicate your own decisions later on. These treatments may include life-support systems, surgery, or antibiotics.

Hospitals and nursing facilities are required by the Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA) to ask during admission if you have a living will or wish to execute one, but they cannot make you sign one in order to receive care. Completing a living will is your choice, not a requirement.

A Connecticut living will must be signed, dated and have two witnesses. Connecticut health care providers are most familiar with  reviewing the state’s living will form, so if you are interested in completing a living will, it is best to fill this document to avoid your wishes being misunderstood. You can download a Connecticut living will and information packet for more information here.

A living will can be revoked at any time and in any manner, such as by physically destroying it or by orally declaring it.

Appoint a Conservator

A conservator is someone chosen by the Probate Court to handle your personal matters if you are not able  to care for yourself. Under Connecticut law, this means a person has a mental, physical or emotional condition that makes them unable to make or communicate decisions for their personal needs, even with assistance.

Connecticut law requires that conservators follow your advance directives as well as  any person you may have already appointed to uphold your health care wishes if you cannot.

Conservatorship is either voluntary (where you ask a Probate Court to appoint a conservator for you) or involuntary (where someone else asks a Probate Court to appoint a conservator on your behalf).

Choosing a conservator ahead of time will help a court honor your wishes, unless it finds that the person you chose is not able or not fit to serve in your best interests. 

Anatomical Gift

An anatomical gift is the donation of your body or organs to medical science or for a transplant.

Under Connecticut law, your family has the right to make an anatomical gift after your death, unless you state in writing that they may not do so.

An anatomical gift can be made in one of three ways:

  1. Signing a “document of gift” that says you agree to make a donation.
  2. Register as an organ donor at your local motor vehicle office.
  3. State your  wishes to donate in your will.

You can revoke, or cancel, your anatomical gift only by a signed statement.

Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment 

A Medical Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) is a voluntary medical order form, similar to a prescription, based on a person’s choice to accept or refuse medical treatment, including treatment that may extend life. For example, a MOLST may have instructions telling emergency medical personnel and other health care providers not perform CPR in the case of a medical emergency.

A MOLST can be an important tool to help medical professionals  quickly understand your care wishes. These forms are for people who are seriously  ill, and signing one requires discussions between the individual and their MOLST-trained physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Once signed, the document stays with the individual across all health care settings.

It is important to understand that a MOLST is not a substitute for an advance directive, such as a living will. These legal documents  are only valid if the individual can no longer make choices about their health. For more information about MOLST forms, go to the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s website.

Wills and Living Trusts


A will is a legal document that guarantees  your possessions will be distributed after your death according to your wishes by a person (called an “executor”) of your choosing. While it’s always best to speak with an attorney, simple wills can be completed yourself by printing and filling out an online form. If you don’t have a will completed at the time of your death, your possessions will go to probate, which is a legal process to direct the payment of any remaining debts you may have, and where your possessions will go after the end of your life. 

Living Trust

A living trust gives ownership of your possessions  to a person of your choosing (called a “trustee”) while you are still alive, and describes how you want the trustee to manage your belongings for the benefit of yourself, or your beneficiary. A lawyer should always prepare living trusts. When your possessions are placed in a living trust, they do not go to probate when you die, as they would with a will.

Learn More: Download the Probate Court Users Guide – Understanding Trusts for more information on trusts and the Probate Court Users Guide – Administration of Decedents’ Estate on how property and possessions are managed.

Consumer Rights


Discrimination is unfair treatment of others based on a particular group or category of people they identify with. Federal and state laws prevent most forms of discrimination based on age, race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or nationality. You are also protected against discrimination related to: housing, credit, employment and public accommodations.

If you are experiencing discrimination in any of these areas, you can file a complaint by contacting the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). You can also meet with an attorney who is an expert in working with  the issues you need help with.

If you are experiencing discrimination related to your disability, you can also contact the Disability Rights Connecticut, Inc. (DRCT), which can find legal and administrative solutions for you.

If you have limited income and need legal services, see the Legal Resources section below.


The Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 does not allow discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. However, housing developed specifically for older adults is allowed if the building meets specific standards. People with disabilities may ask for “reasonable accommodations” or arrangements in their housing, such as a ramp, if they are willing to pay the cost themselves.


The Equal Credit Opportunity Act is a federal law that protects against credit discrimination, including during application for credit, extensions of credit, credit sales, and invitations to apply for credit.

Visit the Connecticut Department of Banking website to file a complaint, access online assistance forms,  information for consumers, and education programs.

Learn More: Visit the Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries website for more information about Connecticut’s laws related to debt collection and consumer law.


Federal and state laws protect against workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, familial status or national origin. These protections are related to situations involving:

  • Hiring 
  • Recommendations, or referrals
  • Advertisements or displays for positions
  • Termination, or firing
  • Involuntary retirement
  • The formation of or membership in a labor organization

To file a complaint of employment discrimination, you may contact the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) or the Boston area office of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which also serves Connecticut.

Public Accommodations

You are allowed full access to any public services, goods, or spaces whether you have a disability or not. Access may include reasonable accommodations, such as interpreters for people with hearing issues,  ramps, or elevators.

Landlord and Tenant Issues

Federal and state laws protect both tenants and landlords. While a tenant is expected to respect the rules of a housing community, the landlord must provide a clean, safe, and accessible living situation. Connecticut law provides added protection to older adults and persons with disabilities who rent.

Keep in mind that your disability or medical condition cannot legally be a factor when you interview for an apartment. When you interview for an apartment:

  • A housing provider should never ask about your health condition, unless the reason  is to determine your eligibility for special programs, services, and equipment their housing community can provide for you.
  • A housing provider should never ask for medical records or proof of your ability to live independently.
  • A housing manager should never tell you supportive services are not allowed, or that you can no longer live in the apartment because you need these services.
  • If the housing environment in which you live has barriers, you are allowed to make reasonable requests for modifications, but you may have to pay for them.

A landlord can raise your rent, but state law protects against unfair rental increases for those who are age 62 and over, and persons with a family member age 62 or over who permanently lives with them. The same protections exist for people living with blindness or a physical disability.

If you have landlord or tenant issues, you can contact your local tenants union. If you need legal assistance, visit the Connecticut Fair Housing Center or call them at (860) 247-4400. If you have limited income and are in need of legal services, contact Statewide Legal Services.

Medicare and Medicaid Rights

If you are a member of Medicare or Medicaid, then you have rights under both of these programs. These include the right to:

  • Be fully informed about what is covered under your benefits, what you have to pay, and how to file a complaint when necessary.
  • Receive appropriate care, including emergency treatment when needed.
  • Question medical decisions and seek a second opinion.
  • Talk with your doctor and participate in decisions about your care and treatment.

You have a right to hear this information in a way that you can understand. An interpreter can be made available for non-English speakers, or for people who are deaf/hearing-impaired. You also have the right to get health care that takes your cultural beliefs and practices into consideration. If you feel that your rights have been violated regarding Medicaid and Medicare, you have options:

  • Fair Hearings for Medicare or Medicaid.
  • Medicare: The Center for Medicare Advocacy (CMA) works to increase access to comprehensive Medicare coverage and quality health care for older adults and persons with disabilities. 

Medicaid: Statewide Legal Services can provide help with Medicaid coverage and quality health care for persons with low incomes.

Private Insurance Rights

Individuals have a right to appeal, or challenge, claim decisions when Qualified Health Care insurance carriers or private insurance deny benefits. The Office of the Healthcare Advocate can assist with appeals.

Your Rights to Live in the Community (The Olmstead Decision)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires states to manage services, programs and activities “in the most integrated setting appropriate.”

As a result of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead Decision, it was ruled that people with disabilities have the right to get care in the most integrated setting appropriate, and that unnecessary institutionalization, such as keeping people in nursing homes, violates the ADA. All states must comply with the Olmstead Decision.

If you feel your rights are being violated and are in need of legal services, see the Where To Get Help section below.

Nursing Home Resident Rights

Federal and state laws guarantee quality care to nursing home residents, and a legal right to privacy, dignity, quality of life and protection from abuse.

As a nursing home resident you have the right to:

  • Be treated with respect and dignity
  • Receive equal and quality care
  • Participate in making decisions about your care and about other parts of your life
  • Be free from any kind of abuse
  • Manage your own finances, or receive help from the nursing home
  • Voice your opinion without consequences
  • Private conversations
  • Send and receive personal mail
  • Have your personal and medical records kept private
  • Apply for state and federal financial assistance.
  • Be fully informed of your rights, service availability and fees before admission
  • Appeal a transfer or discharge

If you feel your rights have been violated, contact the nursing home administrator or a staff member in charge. You can also contact the CT Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program or call at 1-866-388-1888 (Toll-Free). You can also file a complaint with the Department of Public Health.

Abuse, Neglect and Abandonment

Abuse of older adults and people with disabilities is a major problem that often goes unreported. This may include physical, mental and emotional mistreatment; neglect; and abandonment; and financial exploitation.

Some signs of possible abuse or neglect include:

  • Unexplained bruises, burns, or cuts.
  • Lack of food in the refrigerator.
  • Poor hygiene or a dirty environment.
  • Failure to pay important bills such as rent or utility bills.
  • Keeping the person away from family and friends.

If you or someone you know age 60 and older is being abused, neglected or exploited, contact the Protective Services for the Elderly Program (PSE) by calling 1-888-385-4225; for out of state, call United Way of Connecticut toll-free at 1-888-599-5046. 

If you or someone you know with a disability is being abused, you can get help from Disability Rights Connecticut, Inc.

Visit the Abuse, Neglect & Exploitation page to learn more.

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation, or taking advantage of someone to gain money, is the fastest growing form of abuse. Be on your guard if someone comes to your door or tries to contact you to sell items, services, or ask for donations. Telemarketing, direct mail, and e-mail are the main methods scammers use to steal from others. As a general rule of thumb, reject any offer that requires an immediate decision and do not give out any personal information unless you called the person you are speaking with first. Read our blog post on How to Protect Yourself Against Scams for more information about common scams, their warning signs, and ways to avoid them.

Contact the Consumer Law Project for Elders (CLPE) at 1-800-296-1467 (Toll-Free).

If you or someone you know is a person with a disability and is a target of exploitation, you can also get assistance from Disability Rights Connecticut, Inc.

Take Action

CT Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP)

Connecticut’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program works to improve the quality of life and care for Connecticut residents living in nursing homes, residential care homes, and assisted living communities.

Visit  the CT Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program website to learn more.

Protective Services for the Elderly (PSE)

This program investigates reports of physical or mental abuse, exploitation or neglect of adults age 60 and over. Visit the Department of Social Services website to learn more about Protective Services for the Elderly in your area.

Disability Rights Connecticut, Inc.

Disability Rights Connecticut, Inc. (DRCT) is a nonprofit organization that supports and protects the rights of people with disabilities.

Visit the Disability Rights Connecticut, Inc. website to learn more.

Where to Get Help

For additional information on the legal rights and benefits available to older adults and people with disabilities, review the resources below:

Connecticut Network for Legal Aid

This network of several nonprofit legal services organizations has a shared mission to improve the lives of Connecticut’s low-income residents by providing free legal services. Their goal is to offer equal access to justice by providing information and self-help materials on a variety of legal issues.

Explore the Connecticut Network for Legal Aid website for contact and eligibility information, as well as extensive legal self-help information and tools. Services are free.

Consumer Law Project for Elders (CLPE)

The CLPE Hotline provides free legal assistance, including advice, representation and referrals to people age 60 and over who have consumer problems or questions about their rights as consumers. Call 1-800-296-1467 (Toll-Free) to be connected with a legal specialist.

Need a Lawyer?

Local and county bar associations offer lawyer referral services to help you find a private attorney in your county. There may be a fee for the referral and for services from private attorneys.

Area Telephone Number
Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, Tolland and Windham 1-860-525-6052
Fairfield 1-203-335-4116
New Haven 1-203-562-5750
New London 1-860-889-9384

Other Resources

There are also a number of legal services organizations that provide free legal help to those who qualify. One of the organizations listed below may be able to help. Contact them directly for information about their services and eligibility requirements.