Thursday, September 28, 2006

Guardianship Review for PA House; Input Sought

On May 11, 2005, by a unanimous vote (196-0), the Pennsylvania House of Representatives adopted House Resolution 131 (Printer's No. 1861), found online here.

The Resolution was sponsored primarily by
Rep. Glen Grell, joined by 33 other co-sponsors in the House. It is summarized as follows:

A Resolution directing the Joint State Government Commission to review current guardianship statutes and programs and make findings and recommendations on the effectiveness of these statutes and programs in meeting the needs of vulnerable incapacitated persons.
The Resolution's Legislative History is found online here.

The full text of the Resolution is as follows:
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania's guardianship law has not changed in more than a decade; and

WHEREAS, Pennsylvania has a growing population of persons requiring long-term care services; and

WHEREAS, Long-term care facilities in this Commonwealth are increasingly faced with providing care for individuals who lack the capacity to make decisions about their financial and personal affairs and who do not have anyone willing and able to make personal and health care decisions for them;

Therefore be it RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives direct the Joint State Government Commission to review the current guardianship statutes and programs in this Commonwealth and their effectiveness in meeting current demand for guardianships; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That the Joint State Government Commission include in its review specific findings and recommendations relating to the ability of current programs and services to respond to the growing incidence of incapacitated long-term care residents in need of guardianship services; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That the Joint State Government Commission report to the Aging and Older Adult Services Committee and Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives with the results of their findings and recommendations within six months of the adoption of this resolution.
The Joint State Government Commission noted in its staff report list (found online here) that a responsive report was originally anticipated to be produced by November, 2005. However, formal appointments to the study group did not occur until January, 2006.

The Guardianship Study Committee membership, as appointed, is broad-based as to viewpoints, organizations, & expertise. I am priviledged to be a member, representing practicing attorneys.

This Ad Hoc House Guardianship Study Group first met on January 26, 2006. It has met numerous times since then, most recently today, September 28, 2006.

The Group has reviewed various national & Commonwealth studies or proposals occurring in the fourteen years since the current
Pennsylvania Guardianship statute, Chapter 55 ("Incapacitated Persons"), of the PA Probate, Estates & Fiduciaries Code, was enacted (and while it has remained unchanged). An unofficial version of PEF Code Chapter 55 can be accessed online here. For examples of such documents, see:
  • Report of the Subcommittee on Guardianships and Powers of Attorney of the Task Force and Advisory Committee on Decedents' Estates Laws, May 1996, found online here.
  • Wards of the State: A National Study of Public Guardianship, found online here.
  • 2001 House Bill 1647, Printer’s No. 2014 (not enacted), found online here.
Most recently, the American Bar Association and AARP issued a study about the monitoring of guardianship nationwide, as I described in a previous posting found here.

Now, the Guardianship Study Group is asking for input on points of change
-- first, in the nature of procedural "tweaking" to the Guardianship statute intended to improve the current conduct & administration of guardianships ,and to align it with more recent fiduciary laws adopted, such as the Uniform Trust Act referenced in a posting found here; and, second, in the nature of improved support for guardians.

By mid-November, the Study Group will reconvene and examine suggestions.

The private bar -- elder law, trusts & estates, and probate lawyers -- are invited to offer concrete suggestions in anticipation of this meeting.

Any suggestions may be forwarded either to Sally Shoffstall, Esq. (, of Orefield, PA, or to me (, for presentation to the Guardian Study Group at its next meeting.