Extending Guardianship Authority Across State Lines

Seated elderly mans hands being held by younger woman's hands

I am my mother’s legal guardian and we are moving to Massachusetts from New York– what do I need to do to make sure Massachusetts recognizes my guardianship authority?

The Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act “UAGPPJA” makes it significantly easier for those under guardianship, and those with guardianship authority, to be geographically mobile. This Act provides a way to resolve interstate jurisdictional issues, allows for easy communication between states, and aims to ensure that only one state has jurisdiction at a time. This results in a more streamlined judicial process, dramatically reduces potential legal costs, helps prevent elder abuse and allows for easier management of emergency situations. So far 42 states, the District of Columbia and the territory of Puerto Rico have adopted the UAGPPJA with 3 more states introducing the Act this year.

Massachusetts has adopted the UAGPPJA and it can be found under Chapter 225 of the Acts of 2014, G.L.c. 190 §5A. Consequently, there is now a uniform procedure that allows a guardian to transfer an existing guardianship to a reciprocal state and terminate the originating state’s authority. In the alternative, the Act allows a guardian to request that his or her out-of-state guardianship authority be recognized and given full faith and credit in Massachusetts. By enacting the UAGPPJA, a guardian will no longer have to start a new lengthy and potentially expensive guardianship proceeding upon moving to a new state. Instead, the guardian will only need to file paperwork that, barring any complication or objections, can be allowed administratively. Thus, this Act helps to reduce previously commonplace but unnecessary emotional and financial burdens.

When determining which method is appropriate for you and your loved one, it is important to understand Massachusetts’ basic terminology. To “Transfer Out” refers to a Massachusetts appointed guardian who wishes to transfer his or her guardianship authority to another state. Conversely, to “Transfer In” refers to an individual with out-of-state guardianship who wishes to transfer his or her authority to Massachusetts. “To Register” means that the guardian wishes to have his or her out-of-state recognized and given full faith and credit in Massachusetts despite being from a different state.

Each of the above options requires specific pleadings and a clear demonstration as to why the Transfer or Registration is necessary. It must be satisfactorily demonstrated to court that the guardian has arranged for reasonable and sufficient care and services for the incapacitated person in the new state. The Act allows for all involved states to communicate with each other helping to ensure that there are no unresolved allegations of elder abuse, intent to evade another court’s guardianship order or otherwise take advantage of a vulnerable person.

While the Act has gone a long way in streamlining the process of transferring a guardianship across state lines, there are some traps for the unwary. As always, we recommend discussing your pending move and corresponding needs with an experienced guardianship attorney to determine your best course of action.