Republished with permission of Chancellor Lawrence Primeaux.
A good starting point in looking at the GAP Act is with the most frequently asked questions that I have heard about the new law. Those questions are: How does the GAP Act affect guardianships and conservatorships that were opened before January 1, 2020?; and Can I opt out of GAP Act coverage?
Those questions are answered in Section 125 of the GAP Act, which is entitled “Transition Provisions.”
Here is Section 125 verbatim:
Section 125. Transition provisions. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter:
(a) This chapter applies to all guardianship and conservatorship proceedings commenced on or after January 1, 2020;
(b) This chapter applies to all guardianship and conservatorship proceedings commenced before January 1, 2020, unless the court finds that application of a particular provision of this chapter would substantially interfere with the effective conduct of the proceedings or prejudice the rights of the parties, in which case the particular provision of this chapter does not apply and the superseded law applies; and
(c) An act done before January 1, 2020, is not affected by this act.
“Proceedings commenced” means that if you file an action to create a guardianship or conservatorship on or after January 1, 2020, your action is governed by the GAP Act. That’s because MRCP 3(a) provides that “A civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court.” There is no exception or “opting out” for an action commenced on or after January 1, 2020.
But, if you file to create a guardianship or conservatorship under current law before January 1, 2020, and the case is not presented until after January 1, 2020, there is a way that you could choose which law will apply. If you do not take other steps, your case will be under the GAP Act, and you will likely have to re-issue process and amend pleadings to comply with GAP. Or you can get the judge to enter an order exempting your case, as spelled out below.
If you have an existing guardianship or conservatorship, or you are in the situation in the previous paragraph, and you want to continue under the superseded law, I would suggest that you file a motion claiming that the application of Section 125 “would substantially interfere with the effective conduct of the proceedings or prejudice the rights of the parties,” and obtain a court order that the case will proceed under the superseded statutes until further order of the court. In the alternative, you can ask the judge to rule that application of a particular provision, such as the enhanced notice requirements, or some other particular provision will make it harder to administer and cause more expense. The ruling on that motion will be at the chancellor’s discretion, which varies from judge to judge. Don’t assume it would be automatic.
DON’T Discard your current Title 93, volume 20 of the Code! You may need those provisions after the GAP Act comes online. If you’re operating from an online code, you might want to print out a copy of the current Title 93, Chapter 13 just to be sure you have something to go back to.
This article was republished with the permission of Chancellor Lawrence Primeaux of Meridian and was originally published on The Better Chancery Practice Blog on September 10, 2019.