Guardianship: Transitioning from State-to-State
Recently, the Supreme Court of Alabama became the first state court to publish an opinion on the Uniform Adult Guardianship & Protective Proceedings Jurisdictional Act (“UAGPPJA”). Could they have given it a more complex name? Particularly when the whole purpose of the Act is to simplify inter-state guardianship cases. We’ll avoid the tongue twisters and just call it the Act here.
Why the need for simplicity? You see, each state makes its own laws on guardianship (also known as “conservatorship” in some states). Every case is regulated and decided on a state-by-state basis. Now, if a Court appoints a guardian for Mary in Pennsylvania and Mary never moves to another state, there’s no problem. Pennsylvania law applies, of course. But what happens if Mary moves from to Ohio? Pennsylvania law is not the same as Ohio law so is the guardianship still valid in Ohio? How does Mary’s guardian know what laws to follow? Is Mary’s guardian even the guardian anymore? Here’s another example: What if Mary is in a rehabilitation facility in New York after she breaks her hip and it turns out that, while she’s in New York, she develops dementia and needs a guardian? Let’s say New York appoints the guardian, but her guardian and family have decided that, after rehab, she will reside in Philadelphia with her daughter. What happens then? Does the New York guardian have power to act in Pennsylvania? The list goes on and on. The whole purpose of appointing a guardian is to designate a decision maker for someone who can no longer make decisions for themselves. Think of the damage that could occur if there’s no clear answer to who can sign checks and pay Mary’s bills or who can admit Mary into a nursing home and consent to surgical procedures. If there’s no clear answer to who the guardian is, things get messy fast.
To address the issues that come up when someone like Mary moves from one state to another, in 2007 by the Uniform Law Commission finished the Act. It deals with four major problems faced in inter-state guardianship cases:
1. Determining a person’s “home state”
2. Deciding which state has the authority to appoint a guardian
3. Procedures in transferring guardianships from state-to-state
4. Out-of-state registration and enforcement of guardianship orders
Forty-two states have adopted the Act and legislation to implement it is pending in three more states. Supported by the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Guardianship Association (to name a few), the Act has the power to reduce costs of guardianship procedures, simplify state-to-state transitions and, most importantly, make sure that someone like our Mary has ready access to health care facilities, medication, banks, and everything else they need.
Are you trying to transfer a guardianship from another state into Pennsylvania? Or do you have questions about Pennsylvania’s procedures? Call McMorrow Law, LLC at 724-940-0100 to speak with one of our experienced attorneys about your case and check out other blogs on guardianship issues at /blog/2013/08/guardianship-when-you-dont-have-the-right-to-make-bad-decisions.shtml