Three years ago, when your daughter turned 18, you consulted us about getting appointed as her guardian. The guardianship has been in place since then, and everything is fine. But now you’re moving to Illinois, and taking her with you. Will you need to do anything about the guardianship?
We didn’t really mean Illinois
Actually, you’re moving to South Dakota. Or North Carolina. Or California. It doesn’t really matter where you’re moving — the issues will be the same. Unless, of course, you’re moving to Belize. Or Australia.
We also didn’t really mean your daughter. Maybe you are your father’s guardian, instead. As you move to a new state, you want to take him along (and he really wants to go with you).
Actually, we didn’t mean moving out of Arizona. We meant moving to Arizona. Perhaps you have a guardianship from another state, and have brought your daughter to live with you in your new Arizona home.
Of course, we didn’t really mean “guardianship”, either. We meant “conservatorship”. Or both.
Let’s start with that last point. Because the language is different in different states. In Arizona, a “guardian” is someone appointed by the court to make personal decisions (health, living arrangements, and the like) for another person. A “conservator” is someone who has been appointed by the court to handle another person’s finances.
Some states switch the words. Other states use “guardianship of the person” and “guardianship of the estate” to distinguish the two roles. Others use “conservatorship of the person” and “conservatorship of the estate.” So translating your role into a new state can be complicated when you are moving.
Moving your guardianship or conservatorship
When you ask us about moving to a new state, our first discussion point will focus on whether you need to do anything at all. Most other states will recognize your Arizona authority, at least in the short term. We might counsel you to complete the move, then talk to an elder law attorney in the new state.
Just as your Arizona guardianship or conservatorship is likely to work in your new state, an Illinois (or South Dakota, or … you get the point) guardianship will work in Arizona after you arrive here. You might talk to a Tucson elder law attorney (like us) about what you need to do after you get here.
There will come a time, though, when you get tired of explaining your out-of-state guardianship to local providers. That’s when you will want to look into moving the guardianship to the new state.
Language issues aside, it is generally a little more complicated to move a conservatorship than a guardianship. That makes sense, if you think about it; the state court supervising finances will be more finicky about the transition. But the basic rules are the same.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple solution?
Yes, it would. And to help provide a simple(r) option, most states (all but four of them, as of this writing) have adopted a model law to govern transitions. The law is intended to make it easier to move a guardianship or conservatorship to a new state.
The Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protected Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (can you say that five times, quickly or at all?) was a good effort to make the process simpler. Unfortunately, it is devilishly complicated. That is apparent just from its abbreviation: the UAGPPJA.
The process of moving requires several steps. First you ask the court where the guardianship was granted for permission to move. Then you ask the court where you now live to accept the move. Next you go back to the original court to ask for final authorization for the move. Finally, you may have to prepare a court accounting for any money you handled in the original state.
Which states have not adopted the UAGPPJA? It turns out that moving to Florida, Kansas, Michigan or Texas is harder than moving to other states. Even Washington DC, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have adopted the UAGPPJA.
Is there another way?
Usually there is an alternative choice. You might simply file a new guardianship (or conservatorship) proceeding in your new state, explaining that there is a pending action in Arizona. Once the new state court approves the notion, you can then ask the Arizona court to terminate its guardianship/conservatorship. You will still have to file a final account and get the Arizona court to approve your financial actions, but you might save a step (and some time).
There is also another choice. You can keep using the Arizona court proceedings in your new state. In fact, you might even have a third choice: you might be able to simply record your Arizona guardianship or conservatorship in the new state’s court, and have it treated as if it were granted in the new state. Talk to a local elder law attorney about the mechanics of that option.
Here is an option you can not choose: do not simply ignore the Arizona proceeding, thinking that you now live in the new state. Arizona courts will not think you have handled the move correctly, and the consequences can be dire. We have actually watched a woman taken into custody, and held in an Arizona jail until she cleared up an old, unresolved conservatorship.
We’ve assumed you are taking your daughter with you
Nearly all of the advice we describe here is irrelevant if your daughter is staying in Arizona. Same, of course, if the guardianship or conservatorship is over a different family member; they don’t necessarily have to move just because you do.
In fact, that gives an opportunity to make a key point. As guardian, you have authority over where your daughter (or father, or whomever) lives. But that doesn’t mean you should make the decision lightly, or on your own.
When considering a move, make sure you discuss the options with the subject of the guardianship. They might have strong feelings about staying put. You might think their thinking is unclear, or their motivations suspect — but you still need to consider their wishes. That’s what being a good guardian is all about.