Friday, July 06, 2012

New "Granny Snatching" Law in PA

On July 5, 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed House Bill 1720 (Printer's No. 2589) -- commonly (and comically) referenced as the "Granny Snatching bill" -- into state law as Act 108 of 2012, to take effect in 60 days.

Act 108 amends Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries) of PA Consolidated Statutes, to provide for uniform adult guardianship and protective proceedings jurisdiction.  The final form of that Bill is available on the web, in PDF format, and as a Word document.

Act 108 deals primarily with court-oriented jurisdictional, transfer, and enforcement issues relating to adult guardianships and adult protective proceedings.  For a lengthy explanation about the then-pending bill, with links, see: PA Elder, Estate & Fiduciary Law Blog post, "Granny Snatching" Prohibition Pending in PA (10/25/11).

Act 108 was based upon the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA), a national statutory model that received approval at the 2007 annual meeting of the National Conference of Commissioners for Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL).

Already in 2012, Connecticut and Maine adopted it, and seven other states, consider it.  Our nearby sister state, New Jersey, is one of them.  See:  New Jersey Considers Law to Prevent ‘Granny Snatching’, (05/21/12), by Beth Fitzgerald, posted on NJ Spotlight, which analyses how their proposed new law "would alleviate jurisdictional issues when families feud over guardianship".

Before 2012, a majority of more than thirty states adopted it (see map above, which now identifies Pennsylvania as an "enacted" state).

The bill as originally proposed was based upon the model statute, and was revised only slightly for its final version adopted by the Legislature (House: 196-0 on October 26, 2011; and  Senate: 49-0 on June 26, 2012).  For example, the original bill used the uniform act's definition of "conservator" as one who manages property of an adult person, and "guardian" as one who makes personal decisions for another.  In Pennsylvania, instead, Chapter 55 (Incapacitated Persons) uses the term "guardian" for both aspects of surrogate management.

The few revisions added in the amended version of the Bill varied slightly from the model statutory form, but only clarified concepts.

This legislation, which will become effective on September 5, 2012, represents an accomplishment for those who drafted, introduced, advocated, and enacted it.  Its adoption will benefit those inside and outside of Pennsylvania, whose lives and living situations will be touched by guardianship disputes involving adults brought into courts.

Now Pennsylvania Orphans' Court judges will have clear jurisdictional rules, and the Commonwealth's Area Agencies on Aging, as well as private litigants, will have new tools, within the setting of an increasingly uniform state court jurisdictional system, that can expedite remedies for certain kinds of personal dislocations and financial elder abuse.