News

Commission on Guardianship and Conservatorship to discuss new law to protect children and vulnerable adults

May 2, 2019

The Commission on Guardianship and Conservatorship will meet at 10 a.m. May 3 at the Gartin Justice Building, 450 High Street in Jackson to discuss the recent passage of legislation which will guard and protect vulnerable children and adults.

The 2019 Legislature passed the Mississippi Guardianship and Conservatorship Act, which revises guardianship and conservatorship laws. The new laws are also referred to as the GAP Act, for “guard and protect.”

Senate Bill 2828, introduced by Sen. Joey Fillingane, is based on recommendations the Commission on Guardianship and Conservatorship made after nearly two years of intensive study. Gov. Phil Bryant signed the legislation on April 16. The changes will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Justice Dawn Beam, co-chair of the Commission, said, “The work of this Commission and the GAP Act will ensure our most vulnerable children and adults are being cared for and their assets protected. Since the Act does not take effect until January 2020, we will have plenty of time to train court personnel on how the court’s computer system will assist judges in overseeing the care of our citizens, bringing the courts into the 21st Century. The GAP Act gives judges more flexibility in tailoring necessary safeguards while protecting the independence and dignity of each person in need of protection.”

The Supreme Court on April 13, 2017, created the Mississippi Commission on Guardianship and Conservatorship to develop recommendations to improve the way the courts protect children, vulnerable adults and estates. Justice Beam and Mississippi Judicial College Executive Director Randy Pierce are co-chairs of the 26-member Commission.

Mississippi’s laws governing guardianships and conservatorships had not been substantially changed in more than 30 years. The old laws lacked provisions for oversight, monitoring and accountability, and there had been incidents of fraud and abuse of vulnerable people.

The Commission made recommendations to create a clear and workable statutory framework, modern and enforceable reporting requirements, comprehensive court monitoring procedures, state driven accountability measures, protection of the ward’s fundamental rights, and transparency from all parties.

The GAP Act sets out in one comprehensive body of law provisions that:

• distinguish guardian of the person from conservator of the estate;
• clarify the role of a guardian/conservator in a ward’s life;
• specify basis for appointment of a guardian/conservator through improved medical evaluation forms;
• encourage individualized planning and use of the least restrictive alternative;
• create accountability between the guardian/conservator and the courts to prevent fraud and abuse;
• inform ward of procedural and substantive rights at hearings and ensure due process through protection of ward’s person and assets;
• create a guardian/conservator plan for use throughout the appointment, with the court able to adjust the plan at its discretion;
• monitor each ward’s plan, and track inventories and accountings through Mississippi Electronic Courts, MEC;
• establish an avenue for required well-being reports.

Senate Bill 2828 is at this link: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2019/pdf/SB/2800-2899/SB2828SG.pdf.