Adult guardianship proceedings are complicated in their own right, but sometimes jurisdictional confusion adds an extra layer of difficulty. There may be no question about the appropriate jurisdiction for an adult guardianship proceeding where all relevant parties have lived, and continue to live, in the same jurisdiction; however, such is not always the case given the increasing mobility of the U.S. population. Enter the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protecting Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (the “UAGPPJA” or the “Act”).
The UAGPPJA is a set of model laws that was published by the Uniform Law Commission in 2007. It has since been adopted and enacted in 48 states, including Illinois and New York. While the UAGPPJA contains simplified provisions to transfer guardianships from one state to another or to register out-of-state orders with a local court, the meat-and-potatoes of the Act is a set of rules that enable a court to resolve jurisdictional questions or disputes and provide the jurisdictional foundation for any guardianship proceeding, regardless of where the parties reside.
The UAGPPJA provides “the exclusive jurisdictional basis” for a court of a given state to appoint a guardian for an adult. The Act grants a state’s courts primary jurisdiction to appoint or modify a guardian or conservator for an adult individual where that state is either the individual’s “home state,” or where that state is a “significant-connection state” for the individual, provided other conditions are met. I address each avenue for jurisdiction further below.
Home State Analysis
A court will have primary jurisdiction over the guardianship or conservatorship of an individual if the court is situated in the home state of the individual. An individual’s home state is the state where that individual was present for at least six consecutive months immediately before the filing of a petition in a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding. If the individual was not present in a single state for the six months preceding the filing of such a petition, the individual’s home state is the state in which he or she was physically present for at least six consecutive months ending within the six months prior to the filing of the petition.
It is possible that an individual who has moved around frequently prior to the filing of a relevant petition will not have a home state, in which case the significant-connection state analysis detailed below may come into play.
Significant-Connection State Analysis
A significant-connection state is a state with which the individual for whom guardianship is sought has a significant connection other than mere physical presence, and in which substantial evidence concerning the individual is available. In determining whether an individual has a significant connection with a state, a court will consider the location of the individual’s family, the length of time the individual was ever physically present in the state, the location of the individual’s property, and the extent to which the individual has other ties to the state (including, e.g., voting registration, state or local tax return filing, vehicle registration, a driver’s license, social relationships, and receipt of services).
A significant-connection state may have jurisdiction over the guardianship or conservatorship proceedings of an individual where one of the following scenarios applies:
- The individual does not have a home state, or the individual’s home state has declined jurisdiction because a significant-connection state is the more appropriate forum; or
- There is no petition for appointment of a guardian or conservator pending or filed in the home state or any other significant-connection state, and:
- No objection to jurisdiction has been filed by any person required to be notified of the proceeding, and
- The significant-connection state court concludes that it is an appropriate forum pursuant to a statutory set of factors, including the expressed preference of the individual over which guardianship is sought, the distance of the individual from the court in each state, the nature and location of the relevant evidence, the ability of the court in each state to decide the issue expeditiously, and the court’s ability to monitor the conduct of any subsequently-appointed guardian or conservator.
This fact-intensive analysis can become quite complex when there are multiple proposed guardians and multiple states involved; nevertheless, the UAGPPJA has proven to be a reliable source to work through these issues.
If you are looking for assistance with a guardianship, conservatorship, or related proceeding, contact our law office and schedule a consultation.