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'Granny Snatching' law could prevent guardianship battles

Our nation is seeing one of its largest and most renowned age groups entering into senior citizen status -- the baby boomers. It is this groups' entry into their golden years that has driven many states to enact legislative changes to protect them and their estates from disagreements between children, grandchildren and/or other designated guardians. The new form of elder abuse, dubbed as "granny snatching" has been a problem throughout the country. Legislators in New Jersey are hoping to join the ranks of 30 other states to protect the best interests of their vulnerable adults.

In far too many situations, guardianship is initially determined in the state of New Jersey for elderly parents with disabling conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease. However, not all of the wards' loved ones may live within the state and if they visit another family member out-of-state trouble can transpire.

New Jersey, as well as other states, is hoping by adopting the "New Jersey Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act" that once guardianship is established in the ward's home state that it will gain reciprocity in the other jurisdictions within the network.

Unfortunately, for many families the bill has come too late and their loved one was "snatched" by another family member to another jurisdiction and guardianship was lost. Litigation such as this is very costly to family members and can also "deplete the elderly ward's resources."

Sources highlight one case's legal price tag at over $1 million. In this situation, a wealthy widow from Highland Park went to visit her daughter in Texas. During the visit, the daughter applied and was successfully granted guardianship of her mother. The widow's New Jersey family members began court proceedings to have her returned to her "home state." The case ultimately was appealed.

It is important to protect our elderly loved ones. For family members whose mental or physical state has deteriorated to the point where they are no longer able to make their own decisions, it may be time to look into asking the court to appoint a legal guardian to protect their best interests. Such a request can prevent a beloved family member from being exploited and taken advantage of in their fragile condition.

Source: NJSpotlight, "New Jersey Considers Law to Prevent 'Granny Snatching'," Beth Fitzgerald, May 21, 2012

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