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January/February 2014, Vol. 56, No. 1

Cuomo signs State Bar’s guardianship bill

By Mark Mahoney
Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation supported by the State Bar that clarifies rules regarding adult guardianship and allows for more interstate cooperation in guardianship disputes.

The Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA) creates a clear, uniform process for establishing a legal relationship between incapacitated adults and their caregivers, thus reducing the potential for litigation, reducing disputes among states and reducing the possibility of abuses.

A key provision of the bill (A.857/S.2534) recognizes the jurisdiction of the home state of an incapacitated individual for guardianship purposes, regardless of the person’s physical location.

In most cases, the act would require states to cede jurisdiction in guardianship cases to the individual’s home state and cooperate with the home state with regard to the collection of evidence. It also would provide procedures for the transfer of guardianship between states and for the registration of guardianship orders from one state to another.

NYSBA drafts law

State Bar President David M. Schraver of Rochester (Nixon Peabody LLP) said the law was needed because multi-state guardianship disputes have become more common as society has become increasingly mobile.

“Under the U.S. Constitution, the guardianship decisions of one state are not necessarily enforceable in another state. This often results in significant legal obstacles when an incapacitated person moves or is transported from one state to another,” Schraver said. “Passage of this act will reduce the stresses placed on families, as well as eliminate many of the legal and financial complications that such situations often create.”

The initial draft of the legislation was proposed by the State Bar’s Elder Law Section and endorsed by the Executive Committee.

Elder Law Section Chair Frances M. Pantaleo of Purchase (Walsh Amicucci & Pantaleo LLP) said her section worked with the Alzheimer’s Association to modify an interstate law to meet the needs of New York.

“We are proud of the efforts of our Legislation Committee. We believe that this legislation will simplify and reduce the cost of guardianship proceedings involving frail and elderly New Yorkers,” she said.

With the addition of New York, 37 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have enacted some form of UAGPPJA.

The bill was sponsored by Assemblywoman Helene E. Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) and Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and passed in both houses in April. Cuomo signed the bill as Chapter 427 on October 23. 

Mahoney is NYSBA’s associate director of media services.