When we assume guardianship over another, we think about any number of things: how do we manage an addition or a change to our families? How might our changing circumstances affect us emotionally? Financially? What does the future look like for our changing family? But one thing we may not consider is how a new guardianship might be affected by a future move. However, our population is more mobile than ever, and more and more families find themselves negotiating complex issues of interstate jurisdiction over guardianships. Understanding how to transfer guardianship to another state can help to avoid costly and confusing mistakes and can ensure that your family’s move is as easy as possible.
The Legal Landscape
Generally, the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause requires each state to honor court rulings from any other state. However, there are exceptions to almost every rule, and lengthy and expensive court proceedings are still sometimes necessary when transferring guardianship from one state to another.
To assist in managing the complexities associated with a guardianship transfer, the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (“UAGPPJA”) was introduced in 2007 and has since been adopted in all but 5 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. This uniform statute adopts the terminology utilized in the Uniform Probate Code, making it easier for courts in different states to wade through complex orders. The five articles of the UAGPPJA establish a system for resolving interstate conflicts, and provide a simplified transfer process for adult guardianships, making it easier to register out-of-state orders with a local court.
If you’re moving to a state that hasn’t adopted the UAGPPJA or doesn’t have reciprocity with your current state, you’ll need to begin proceedings in both jurisdictions. Planning ahead can be crucial, as the process of transferring guardianship can take months or even years.
First, your attorney will petition the originating state court for permission to move your ward and will file a petition in the new jurisdiction for a new appointment to be recognized. One guardianship court must always have the authority to make decisions with regard to the ward.
All interested parties to the guardianship must be notified in writing of the move — this may include close family, heirs or beneficiaries of the estate, creditors, and debtors. How much notice needs to be given varies according to the laws of the states involved in the transfer. If the ward receives benefits such as Medicare, disability payments, or Social Security, those agencies should be contacted as well. Your lawyer will help you file the appropriate form(s) and serve notice on all interested parties.
During a relocation hearing, the guardian has to show reasonable and sufficient plans in place for the care of their ward during and after the relocation. If this qualification and others are met, the court will grant a provisional transfer.
When there are different proceedings going on in two different states, the guardian faces an array of possible stressful issues as well as expenses for legal guidance, fees, medical experts, and the potential need for a surety bond. It’s crucial to work with an experienced guardianship attorney, who will save you money in the long run and ensures your interests are protected.
Moving between states that have enacted the UAGPPJA (including Illinois) is much more streamlined, however, there can still be a great deal of back-and-forth involved in ensuring a smooth transfer. A great deal of confusion can be associated simply with the terminology used – some states tenaciously cling to their own preferred wording, using guardian and conservator interchangeably, or making use of other titles like “curator” or “custodian” that can lead to confusion in interpreting court orders.
Courts in participating states may still call for an evidentiary hearing. A major objective of the UAGPPJA act is to shield those under guardianship from abuse and exploitation. It also prevents quarreling family members from moving a vulnerable person across state lines for their own advantage. If moving the guardianship is contested in any way, multi-jurisdictional disputes can become complicated, requiring the services of experienced counsel in both jurisdictions.
Your new state may require new mental and medical evaluations of an adult ward to determine if guardianship is still necessary. Once the jurisdiction you’re moving to issues a certified order granting guardianship, your attorney will file a motion with the original court to complete the transfer process.
If the out-of-state move or any other reasons necessitate the transfer of the role of guardianship, the process can become much more complex than if the guardian remains the same through the relocation process. A Guardian Ad Litem may even be appointed by the new jurisdiction to investigate the background of the case and make recommendations to the court.
The original guardianship court will request sufficient evidence that the ward or minor will be cared for and that this move is in their best interest. They may also request a thorough accounting of the ward’s estate and assets before the move can be fully completed and the case closed.
When the court in the originating state is satisfied that the transfer is legally appropriate, you can proceed with all of the other details involved in a major move, such as establishing new medical providers, getting updated identification, and settling into your new residence.
Get the Guidance Your Family Needs
Becoming someone’s guardian can be very rewarding, but it also means accepting many duties and responsibilities that can seem daunting at times, especially when the need for an out-of-state move arises.
That’s why it’s vital to partner with an experienced advocate anytime the issue of guardianship arises. Making arrangements for your minor children or yourself should you become incapacitated is an important part of your overall estate plan.
Your attorney will help you get peace of mind and ensure that you and your loved ones are protected in case anything happens. At the Law Offices of J.Jeltes, we have more than 20 years of combined experience in every aspect of family law, guardianship, and major life transitions.
If you need legal guidance from a skilled and compassionate attorney, contact us today to schedule a one-on-one consultation.