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Legal Notes: Uniform Guardianship Act

Attorney Seunghee ChaAttorney Seunghee ChaWhen individuals are unable to manage their own wellbeing or assets, a court may appoint a guardian or a conservator to make personal or financial decisions on their behalf. The judicial proceedings can be expensive and time-consuming, but they are often necessary to prevent harm and financial exploitation. If more than one state is involved, families can get caught in jurisdictional conflicts without uniformity of rules among the states.

On January 1, 2015, the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJ) goes into effect in Massachusetts. The new law will bring clarity and uniformity to guardianship cases involving more than one state.

Guardians who must move an incapacitated person from one state to another face three major challenges:

  1. Which state has jurisdiction over the individual who needs guardianship?
  2. How does a state recognize the authority of a guardian decreed in the court of another state? 
  3. How does a guardianship case transfer from one state to another?

Under the UAGPPJ, the proper jurisdiction is the individual’s “home state,” where he or she lived for at least six consecutive months immediately before commencing a guardianship or protective proceeding. If the home state declines jurisdiction, the state with a “significant connection” to the individual (as opposed to mere physical presence) has jurisdiction. The law authorizes guardians to register the decree of another state in the new jurisdiction, which must give full faith and credit to the order even if it is not registered. If a transfer of the case is necessary, instead of repeating the guardianship procedure, the “new state” has jurisdiction when the individual physically locates there and the court transferring the case finds that the move is permanent, there is no objection—or any objection has failed—to establish that the transfer is against the individual’s interest, the plans for the individual in the new state are reasonable and sufficient, and the proceeding will be accepted by the court to which the proposed transfer is to be made. 

The statute will ease the burden on family members who must move a frail elder to another to provide better care and help them make critical decisions for their loved one without delay.

Find more information about Attorney Seunghee Cha here.

The views expressed in this blog post represent general information. To address your particular and specific needs consult your own attorney. If you need help with referral to an attorney, contact the Franklin County Bar Association at (413) 773-9839 or the Worcester County Bar Association at (978) 752-1311.

Call Community Legal Aid at 413-774-3747 or toll-free 1-855-CLA-LEGAL (1-855-252-5342) during their intake hours (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.). Apply for help anytime online by visiting www.communitylegal.org. Franklin County Office is located at 55 Federal St, Suite 120, Greenfield, MA. The office is no longer open for walk-ins. Services are free to people age 60 and older. Advocates are Jan Stiefel and Wendy Kane.