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New Guardianship Law in Massachusetts

As of January 1, 2015, the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJ) is in effect in Massachusetts, bringing clarity and uniformity to guardianship cases involving more than one state.

When individuals are unable to manage their own welfare or assets, a court may appoint a guardian or a conservator to make personal or financial decisions on their behalf to prevent harm and exploitation.  The judicial proceedings can be expensive and time-consuming, and if more than one state is involved families can get caught in jurisdictional conflicts.

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 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.  If a transfer of the case is necessary, 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, and the plans for the individual in the new state are reasonable and sufficient.

The new law will ease the burden on families who must move a loved one to another state to provide better care without delay.

A version of this article was published in The Recorder (Greenfield, MA) on December 27, 2014.