ND, Minnesota look to uniform guardian laws
Patrick Springer - 02/15/2009
Guardian Kelly Qualey watched helplessly from afar as one of her persons under guardianship, a vulnerable adult from Fargo, ended up with a convicted felon as a roommate after he moved to Texas. Qualey’s guardianship didn’t travel with the man, who suffered from dementia and mental illness, because the state of Texas didn’t recognize her authority. Ultimately, the former Fargo resident was placed in an assisted-living facility, where he is better protected from those who would prey upon the unsuspecting. But his case underscores the need for uniform state guardian laws, said Qualey, who is with Guardian and Protective Services. North Dakota and Minnesota are among a handful of states considering legislation to adopt a standard guardianship law to prevent pitfalls such as the one Qualey’s client faced last year.
In another case, a client of Qualey’s lost benefits when she moved to Virginia and didn’t have access to a guardian there to help her sign up. Her North Dakota guardianship wasn’t recognized in Virginia, and efforts to refer her case to a guardian in that state failed. “Her public assistance benefits were terminated because she didn’t have anybody to help her with the application,” Qualey said. “That’s the problem you run into all the time,” she said. “There needs to be a standard.”
A population that is both mobile and aging drives the need for a uniform guardianship law, guardians and lawyers said. Snags can occur not only when a person under guardianship moves to another state, but also when a person under guardianship wants to visit another state, as Donna Byzewski, a guardian with Catholic Charities North Dakota in Fargo, can attest. Her person under guardianship, a vulnerable adult with serious medical problems, wanted to visit family on the East Coast. But he wasn’t able to make the trip because Byzewski, despite repeated attempts, wasn’t able to find anyone in that state to grant permission for medical treatment, in the event that would be necessary. “I had spent literally days on the phone trying to make it happen, talking to hospitals, courts, developmental disability organizations. “It was disappointing to both of us, and the family at the other end.”
Problems like those described by Byzewski and Qualey would be addressed by legislation moving forward in North Dakota and Minnesota, District Judge Gail Hagerty Hagerty, said. “This is something we know there is a need for,” said Hagerty, seated in Bismarck and a member of the Uniform Law Commission, which is promoting the national model legislation. In North Dakota, Senate Bill 2074 unanimously passed the Senate, and is expected to pass the House. In Minnesota, Senate File 412 awaits action in the Judiciary Committee. “It would just be really helpful if everyone was on the same page,” Qualey said.
Highlights of act Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act highlights:
- Provides procedures to resolve jurisdictional disputes.
- Helps to transfer guardianship cases between states.
- Provides for recognition and enforcement of guardianship or protective orders.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522