Pennsylvania Enacts Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act
Any medical practitioner, or lawyer practicing in a medically-related field, understands the difficulty of medically managing a patient who lacks the capacity to make important decisions for him or herself. In such situations, it becomes necessary to rely on decision makers such as powers of attorney or family members. However, there is the potential that competing individuals will vocalize opposing wishes, all claimed to be in the best interest of the incapacitated person.
Where there is no interested person to make the decisions, or the decisions of competing interested parties can not be reconciled, it may become necessary to seek Court appointment of a legal guardian. Such instances are further complicated when the incapacitated person has ties outside of the Commonwealth, because each state has its own distinct system of protecting adults who need the assistance of a legal guardian.
The good news is that Pennsylvania has joined the growing list of states, numbering more than half, which has adopted a uniform law to address adult guardianship proceedings. In Act 108 of 2012, Pennsylvania enacted the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act, which is a consistent law for resolving multi-state disputes and determining which state has jurisdiction over adult guardianships. Although there is nothing about Act 108 that substantively alters how the Courts of this Commonwealth currently determine guardianship, it is of paramount importance, nonetheless, because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has long enjoyed the demographic distinction of having a large elderly resident population.
State representative Tim Hennessy (R – Chester), Chairman of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, introduced House Bill 1720 in 2011, “in an effort to . . . help seniors and others be protected from personal and property abuse,” according to Hennessey’s website. The intention of the Bill was to discourage elder exploitation, or the removal or enticement of an elder person into another state with the intention of gaining control over his or her assets and/or major life decisions.
Act 108 of 2012 was signed by the House on June 26, 2012, signed by the Senate one day later, and approved by the Governor on July 5, 2012, to take effect on September 5, 2012. In joining the nearly 30 other states that have already adopted this law, Pennsylvania is now better able to resolve interstate jurisdiction controversies in adult guardianship proceedings.
Fundamentally, Act 108 affords communication, uniformity and reciprocity between states handling guardianship cases that span state boundaries and assists with the ultimate goal of determining which jurisdiction is best positioned to protect the incapacitated person.