Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Uniform Guardianship law for the states

On March 17, 2008 Utah became the first state in the country to enact the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA).

The uniform act addresses the issue of jurisdiction over adult guardianships, conservatorships, and other protective proceedings. The objective of the uniform act is to ensure that only one state has jurisdiction at any one time. The act contains specific guidelines to specify which court has jurisdiction to appoint a guardian or conservator for an incapacitated adult by prioritizing the states which might claim jurisdiction.

If the priority states decline jurisdiction, or if the individual has no home state or "significant-connection" state, then another state may claim jurisdiction. The act provides that once a court has jurisdiction until the proceeding is terminated or transferred.

The act also provides procedures for enforcement or transfer of guardianship proceedings from one state to another.

Because there are more than fifty guardianship systems in the United States, problems of determining jurisdiction are frequent.

The Alzheimers Association lays out scenarios where current law is inadequate.

#1 If an adult child is granted guardianship in one state and has to move to another state that guardianship may not be recognized and the whole process has to be done again.

#2 If an adult child finds an elderly person in distress in a state where they live only part-time (snowbirds) that state may refuse jurisdiction. If the adult child lives somewhere other than the parents "home state," that adult child would have to go to the parent state for the order, which then may not be recognized in the state where he lives. The UAGPPJA allows state courts to communicate with each other to avoid situations like this and determine the best jurisdiction.

#3 A Utah woman falls and breaks her hip. She and her daughter decide that she should stay with the daughter who lives in Colorado while she recuperates. While there, her daughter realizes her mother's worsening cognitive state. Utah and Colorado have both passed the UAGPPJA so the Colorado Court can talk to the Utah Court to see if anyone has petitioned there. If Utah finds that no petitions have been filed, the state can give Colorado jurisdiction, even though Utah is the home state.

So far the bill has been adopted only in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, and Utah. Fourteen other states have introduced bills for consideration this year.

For real life demonstrations, nothing has made it more clear than what's called the Hotel Connecticut, here and here.

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