Senate Committee Recommends Adopting Uniform Act on Guardianship, Drafted by Professor Nina Kohn

Posted on Tuesday 12/4/2018
Nina A. Kohn

The US Senate Special Committee on Aging has recommended nationwide adoption of the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act (UGCOPAA), for which Professor Nina Kohn served as Reporter, or principal drafter. The recommendation was made in a new report by the Committee—"Ensuring Trust: Strengthening State Efforts to Overhaul the Guardianship Process and Protect Older Americans"—released following a Nov. 30, 2018, Capitol Hill hearing on "Ways Ways to Strengthen Guardianship Programs."

"The Senate Aging Committee has been alerted [to] appalling stories from Americans across the country regarding abusive guardianships that take advantage of vulnerable individuals," state the Committee members, led by Chairwoman Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-ME), in a press release. "These guardians are entrusted with significant power over those who rely on their support. Their authority can range from deciding where an individual will live and when to seek medical care to choosing if family members are allowed to visit and how to spend retirement savings."

The latest Committee hearing and report are the culmination of a yearlong examination of ways in which the guardianship system can be improved to better protect individuals subject to guardianship and similar arrangements from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The bipartisan report addresses the importance of guardianship oversight, alternatives to guardianship, and the need for improved data collection.

The report makes 13 recommendations, among them the "nationwide adoption of the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act." The report notes that, "State guardianship laws need greater uniformity to ensure better protections and control for individuals being considered for guardianship and those pursuing a restoration of their rights."

Kohn's April 2018 testimony before the Committee's "Aging and Abuse of Power: Exploitation of Older Americans by Guardians and Others They Trust" hearing is cited in the report. In particular, the report cites Kohn's advocacy of limited guardianship and her support for adopting UGCOPAA. The report observes that "States should encourage courts to utilize alternatives to guardianship through state statutes and public awareness campaigns. Such efforts would officially promote less restrictive alternatives such as limited guardianships and supported decision-making." Moreover, nationwide adoption of UGCOPAA will help to encourage less restrictive alternatives, the report adds.

As a result of the Committee’s investigation,  Collins and Ranking Member Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-PA) announced that they are introducing the Guardianship Accountability Act. "This bipartisan legislation would promote information sharing among courts and local organizations as well as state and federal entities, encourage the use of background checks and less restrictive alternatives to guardianship, and expand the availability of federal grants to improve the guardianship system," the senators explain in their press release.