The GAP Act: Introduction

Republished with permission of Chancellor Lawrence Primeaux. 

Effective January 1, 2020, every statute now existing in Title 93, Chapter 13 will be repealed and replaced by SB 2828, known as the GAP Act. GAP is an acronym for “guard and protect” children and vulnerable adults.

The act is a product of a commission initiated in 2017 and headed by Justice Dawn Beam of the MSSC. The commission produced the content that was introduced in the legislature as SB 2828 in 2018, and was signed into law by Governor Bryant in 2019. The effective date was set far enough in the future to give lawyers and judges time to acquaint themselves with the new law.

All guardianships and conservatorships opened after January 1, 2020, must comply with the act. There are four Articles of the act: Article 1 consists of general provisions; Article 2 deals with guardianship of the minor; Article 3 addresses guardianship of the adult; and Article 4 is for conservatorships.

As for pre-Act guardianships and conservatorships, Section 125 provides that GAP applies to them also unless the chancellor finds that application of a particular provision would “substantially interfere” with the guardianship or prejudice the rights of the parties, in which case that provision does not apply and the superseded law applies. So don’t toss out your Title 93 when the new code arrives.

One of the biggest changes is that the term ”Guardian” will mean the person responsible for the personal affairs of the ward – what we now call a “guardian of the person. A guardian may have a minor or adult ward. “Conservator” will mean the person responsible for the financial affairs of the ward. A conservator may have a minor or adult ward.

Another big change is heightened notice requirements. More people will have to be given notice of the proceeding, and some of those may be allowed to participate. Notices will have to include certain language, as will pleadings.

Hearings are mandated. The court is required to make specific findings.

The MSSC will publish forms for pleadings, process, and even court orders. The forms you have now will not work under the GAP Act.

I will publish a series of posts giving you some insight into what is coming. In the meanwhile, I urge you to read the act and become conversant with it. This blog is no substitute for your own mastery of the subject, which will require that you read and digest its content.

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 4, 2019.