Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Granny Snatching" Prohibition Pending in PA

Would you remember what "UAGPPJA" means, or what it could do in Pennsylvania, without an association to "granny snatching"?  Maybe that's why such a Scrabble of title letters is linked to a simple, silly phrase.  The serious and unremedied abuse situations involving transport of incapacitated elderly persons must be corrected by a dry, but effective, proposed model statute.

[Note:  See last Update below as to enactment of the proposal on July 5, 2012, effective sixty days thereafter.]

The term "granny snatching" was referenced in a November 12, 2007 article in The National Law Journal entitled, Dealing with 'Granny snatching' -- Model law aims to untangle adult guardianship, by Peter Page.  That article addressed the final version of the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA), which received approval at the 2007 annual meeting of the National Conference of Commissioners for Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL).   See also:  Uniform Laws Needed to Deal With Interstate 'Granny Snatching' (03/22/06), posted by the Senior Journal.

UAGPPJA deals primarily with jurisdictional, transfer and enforcement issues relating to adult guardianships and protective proceedings.
NCCUSL explains, on its website, Why States Should Adopt UAGPPJA:
  • Provides procedures to resolve interstate jurisdiction controversies. 
  • Facilitates transfers of guardianship cases among jurisdictions.
  • Provides for recognition and enforcement of a guardianship or protective proceeding order.
  • Facilitates communication and cooperation between Courts of different jurisdictions.
  • Addresses emergency situations and other special cases.
Since 2007, the UAGPPJA has been adopted by more than half the states, with many considering it this year.  All states should adopt this law to prevent forum shopping and transport of persons with weakened mental condition.

Pennsylvania is considering it now.

On September 28, 2011, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives' Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Tim Hennessey, held an informational session (videotaped by the Pennsylvania Cable Network) on House Bill No. 1720, which had been introduced into the House previously on June 22, 2011.

This is a second initiative this year that would upgrade and improve guardianship laws.  The first initiative remains before in the Legislature only in the form of two reports with recommendations, not in pending legislation.  See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting Proposed Amendments of PA POA, Guardianship & Health Care Directive Laws (06/14/11).

I understand that HB 1720 was widely and strongly supported by those at that session and within the House.  It is promoted by AARP-Pennsylvania (offices in Harrisburg & Philadelphia).  [Note:  It is also championed by the Pennsylvania Bar Association -- See Update below.]

Nationally, UAGPPJA is supported by the American Bar Association ("Guardianship Jurisdiction"), the Alzheimer's Association ("UAGPPJA Fact Sheet"), the National Guardianship Association, Inc. ("UAGPPJA Links"), the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys ("Endorsement"), AARP ("Radio Report"), and the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators ("Endorsement").

As a practitioner, I too support it.  Unfortunately, present law in Pennsylvania will confound a court as to jurisdiction, can disconnect a local Area Agency on Aging as to protective services, and can create litigation in both home and foreign jurisdictions among family members at great cost and inconvenience.

The federal Elder Justice Act (effective March 2010) is not yet funded in the area of conflict of laws or interstate transport of elderly persons.  See:  The Elder Justice Act: What It Says, What It Means, And When Will It Be Implemented? (10/26/10), by Bill Benson and Bob Blancato.  Furthermore, the EJA does not codify state laws on the issue of state jurisdiction, so there is no framework of uniform state laws other than this proposal. 

NCCUSL's final model UAGPPJA must bear a few minor tweaks to conform it with existing Pennsylvania law in Chapter 55 ("Guardianship") of the PA Probate, Estates & Fiduciaries Code, for example, on matters such as emergency guardianship and also its use of the term "conservatorship" (not used in our law).  Also, it would need cross-referencing if it would become a new Chapter 59 of the PEF Code. 

WHYY's Newsworks posted an article on October 7, 2011, entitled Pa. plan aims to alleviate 'granny-snatching', which reflected both the need for, and growing momentum of, HB 1720:
Stories of elderly parents being fought over by their children or relatives who want to be the sole guardians are familiar to Rep. Tim Hennessey of Chester County.

"Somebody dies, and then someone else comes in and tries to assume control and the other siblings don't like it. And it could be county to county or it could be state to state," Hennessey said. "You know enough of these stories circulate that you think, oh, geez, somebody, here's a problem, we have to solve it."

When a group called the Uniform Law Commission approached him with legislation to clear up the murky legal issue, Hennessey agreed to sponsor it.
His proposal sets up rules to follow when multiple courts are involved in a dispute over who's responsible for an incapacitated adult. * * *
See also: New court rules proposal aims to prevent so-called "granny snatching"  (10/12/11), by Mary Wilson, posted by WITF. 

HB 1720 appears to be moving quickly in the House.  Today (October 25, 2011), it received second consideration and was referred to the Appropriations Committee.

This bill should be adopted by the House, and then by the Senate; and then it should be signed by the Governor into law.

And, while doing so, the Legislature should address that still-pending first initiative too, so that Pennsylvania's guardianship laws can be more effective and fair.

Update: 10/26/11:

On October 26, 2011, I received in the mail a copy of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Bar News.

On the first page, under the heading PBA President and Elder Law Section Officers Take Part in State House Roundtable on Adult Guardianship Bill, and below a color photograph taken at the September 28, 2011, informational session, was this text:
PBA President Matthew J. Creme, Jr. and PBA Elder Law Section officers Sally Schoffstall and Jacqueline Shafer participate in a roundtable discussion Sept. 28 in Harrisburg with members of the state House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee about House Bill 1720.
The bill would amend Title 20 by adding the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act to provide a uniform mechanism for addressing multijurisdictional adult guardianship issues.  The PBA supports the bill.
In a prior Bar News issue (09/05/11), I found a report of the PBA's action authorizing such an appearance:
The PBA Board of Governors met July 28, at Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort and took the following actions:  * * *

Unanimously approved the resolution of the PBA Elder Law Section that the PBA support the addition of a new §5503 to the existing Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code at 20 Pa. C.S. Chapter 55, also known as the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA).
The UAGPPJA provides a uniform mechanism for addressing multijurisdictional adult guardianship issues that have become time consuming and costs for courts and families.  Because the PBA had been asked to testify at a legislative hearing on this issue in September, the Board took action on behalf of the House of Delegates.
Update: 11/08/11:

Today's emailed update to PBA members noted recent approval by the House of HB 1720, as follows:
House Bill 1720, sponsored by Rep. Tim Hennessey (R-Chester), passed the House 196-0 on Oct. 26 and was referred to the Senate Aging and Youth Committee.
The bill amends Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries) adding the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act, which provides for uniform adult guardianship and protective proceedings jurisdiction.
Update:  01/09/12:

HB 1720's legislative history indicates that it has not moved beyond the Pennsylvania Senate's Aging & Youth Committee.  That is unexplained, and unfortunate.  It should be a priority.

It remains a priority for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, which states on its "Advocate" web page, as follows:
The Alzheimer's Association strongly supports the adoption of UAGPPJA in Pennsylvania and across the country. Due to the impact of dementia on a person's ability to make decisions, individuals living with Alzheimer's disease may need the assistance of a legal guardian. The process of appointing a guardian is handled in state courts. Complications with appointing a legal guardian for an adult may arise when the guardian lives in a different state than the individual with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.

If we adopt UAGPPJA, we make it easier for families across the country to help their loved ones state to state without the hassle of re-filing for guardianship.
 * * *
Update: 07/02/12:

The Pennsylvania Bar Association reported today that the Legislature approved HB 1720, PN 2589 and sent it to the Governor for consideration of signature into law:
H.B. 1720, sponsored by Rep. Tim Hennessey (R-Chester), is on the Governor’s desk. The legislation amends Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries) by adding the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA). UAGPPJA provides a mechanism for addressing multi-jurisdictional adult guardianship issues.
The Legislative History of HB 1720 indicates that it was adopted by the House on October 26, 2011 by a vote of 196-0, and then by the Senate on June 26, 2012, by a vote of 49-0.  It was presented to the Governor on June 28, 2012.

Update: 07/06/12:

House Bill 1720 (Printer's No. 2589) was signed by the Governor on July 5, 2012.  In sixty days, it will become law in Pennsylvania.  See: PA Elder, Estate & Fiduciary Law post, New "Granny Snatching" Law in PA (07/06/12).

As Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, late of Harrisburg, PA was known for saying, TREMENDOUS!!!