Meet Lynn Achter, a Wyoming resident, who was granted guardianship of her brother in Oregon after he suffered a brain injury in a motorcycle accident. From a thousand miles away, she managed his money, made medical decisions, and coordinated the resources and services he needed.
The distance made Lynn's caregiving responsibilities even more difficult, and she decided to move her brother to Wyoming. That's when Lynn discovered that Wyoming did not have a uniform guardianship law, and she would have to repeat the legal process of becoming his guardian.
Not only did Lynn have to relive the painful process, but she had to pay another $2,000 in legal fees. This is in addition to the $3,000 she spent on legal fees in Oregon, and not including travel and other expenses.
"Having a family member be in need of guardianship is heartbreaking. It shouldn't be easy because you are taking over someone's life. It's hard to do, and we don't need to make it harder." -Lynn Achter
Caring for loved ones can be challenging even without long, interstate legal battles. This is why AARP is fighting to remove barriers that prevent guardians from providing for their loved ones, regardless of where they live.
AARP has endorsed the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act - that's UAGPPJA. The keyword in the bill is Jurisdiction, as the law does not change guardianship laws within states but sets rules for state courts to communicate with each other when a jurisdictional issue arises. UAGPPJA solves three common problems involving interstate guardianships:
- Multiple Jurisdictions: Adopting the UAGPPJA would create a clear process for determining which state has jurisdiction to appoint a guardian or conservator if there is a conflict. Example: A mom who is a snowbird and spends her summers and winters in different states. Her health is declining rapidly and her daughter or son needs to file for guardianship. UAGPPJA sets clear rules to allow both states courts to communicate in order to establish which one can issue the guardianship.
- Transfer: The Uniform Act outlines a procedure for transferring a guardianship or conservatorship to another state and for accepting a transfer, helping to eliminate the expense and wait. Example: A wife is her husband's guardian and wants to retire to another state. UAGPPJA shortens the procedure for her to transfer her case to the other state.
Out-of-State Recognition and Enforcement: The UAGPPJA helps to facilitate enforcement of guardianship and protective orders in other states by authorizing a guardian or conservator to register the orders in other states. Example: A husband who has guardianship over his wife and needs the authority to sell property the wife owns in another state.
As a volunteer with AARP Wyoming, Lynn fought to make UAGPPJA law in Wyoming, courageously sharing her personal experiences in testimony. Thanks to her advocacy - and the work of many other volunteers - UAGPPJA passed earlier this year, and the law took effect on July 1.
UAGPPJA has passed in 38 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
States currently considering UAGPPJA include:
- A bill is also pending in the Virgin Islands, and if passed would take effect next year.
Follow me on Twitter @RoamTheDomes for more news on guardianship across the country. And, to stay up to date on our guardianship campaign in the states, sign up for the AARP Advocates e-newsletter or visit your state Web page.