Bill in Legislature Would Recognize Legal Guardianship in V.I.

Virgin Islanders can breathe a sigh of relief when Bill No. 31-0184 is enacted. That’s when individuals in the V.I. who are legal guardians will have the ability to maintain that Guardianship authority in other U.S. states that have also enacted Uniform Guardianship and Jurisdictional codes.
The bill, sponsored by Senators Janette Millin Young, Myron D. Jackson and Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, is the Virgin Islands Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act. If passed, this legislation will formally detail the process whereby legal guardianship in the V.I. can be obtained and how that same guardianship authority can be recognized in other U.S. jurisdictions.
Guardianship, also known as conservatorship, is the legal transfer of authority for property and/or personal decision making when an individual is found to be incapable of managing his or her own affairs. Guardianships often involve minors, dependent adults or the elderly suffering from diseases impacting their mental faculties. When an adult is placed under guardianship, they may lose their basic civil liberties (right to vote, marry and make decisions about where they live, spend their money and medical treatment).
In recent times, the courts oversight of both protection for these rights and monitoring of the guardian’s performance of their duties have varied dramatically state by state. To improve the quality of protections offered by guardianship and to reduce the potential for abuse, states have begun adopting standards of practice and certification for professional guardians proffered by the Uniform Law Commission. States that ultimately adopt these uniform laws enable a Court’s decision in one state to be recognized in other participating states.
What will this mean for Virgin Islanders? The uniformity between jurisdictions that have adopted both the Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act and the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA) portion will streamline the legal recognition process in other states, reduce litigation costs and save valuable time. These three savings become critically important when decisions involving healthcare, for instance, are involved and time is of the essence.
When Bill No. 31-0184 is passed, the V.I. will join 42 other United States jurisdictions that share the same Guardianship and Guardianship Jurisdiction standards.
Editor’s Note: Troy deChabert Schuster is the state director of AARP Virgin Islands. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership of nearly 38 million that helps people turn their goals and dreams into ‘real possibilities’ by changing the way America defines aging.

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