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Attorney K.T. Whitehead remembers the last time she saw a grown man cry. “He was a big guy, a blue-collar sort who was crying like a child because his mother was snatched from the nursing home where she lived,” said Whitehead, a San Antonio solo practitioner specializing in elder law. The wife of the man’s deceased brother, along with an attorney, had appeared at the nursing home at 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday and, defying doctor’s orders, took the elderly woman � who had about $500,000 in assets � to Madison, Wis. Whitehead spent months shuttling to court in Wisconsin to resolve the crying man’s guardianship trauma. “Under current law, we had to litigate in two states, and that gets expensive,” Whitehead said. But help may be on the way. The Uniform Law Commission, an advisory body focused on legal problems common to all states, recently approved model legislation aimed at untangling jurisdictional webs that abet so-called “granny snatching,” but often thwart well-meaning guardians who have to act in more than one state on behalf of their wards. The Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act will give judges in states where it is adopted clear guidance on establishing jurisdiction. It will also allow judges in different states to speak to each other directly to determine jurisdiction. Legislators in at least 10 states, including California, Kansas and Minnesota, have indicated they will introduce the act in their next legislative sessions, according to Katie Robinson, communications officer for the Uniform Law Commission. “If we’d had this act in place, the judge in Wisconsin would have had a process to determine the guardianship belonged in Texas,” said Whitehead, who helped write the act as a representative of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Jurisdiction the key The act is focused solely on resolving jurisdiction, not the substantive law governing guardianship, said David G. Nixon of The Nixon Law Firm of Fayetteville, Ark., who chaired the committee that drafted the act. “There have been rather high-profile cases of ‘granny snatching’ that usually involve a large estate, but the more common problem is people of modest means and the children want to take care of them,” he said. “You can start a proceeding in California, but mom ends up in Florida, which wants to begin a guardianship proceeding. The act is narrowly drafted so we don’t step on anybody’s toes.” Sally Hurme, an attorney for AARP � formerly the American Association of Retired Persons � who worked on the model act, said adult guardianship laws rarely take into account that elderly people often own property in different states or that guardians need to relocate the ward for medical or financial reasons. Under the proposed act, wherever a person has lived during the six months preceding a guardianship action will be the presumed home jurisdiction. Legitimate guardianships in one state can be simply registered to be effective in another state.

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