Missouri Establishes Guardianship Reform Task Force

Members tasked with modernizing 30-year-old statute
JEFFERSON CITY –– A group calling itself the Missouri Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders (MO-WINGS) has been convened by Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council to review and recommend statutory changes to update Missouri’s adult guardianship law.
MO-WINGS has met bi-monthly in 2012 and will continue into 2013 with a goal to draft comprehensive recommendations for introduction in the 2014 Missouri legislative session. The guardianship law defines the roles and responsibilities of court-appointed guardians of persons with incapacity and conservators to manage their property.
“Since our present law in effect since 1983, Missouri has enacted durable powers of attorney laws for health care and financial/property purposes, a custodianship law and the uniform trust code,” said Reg Turnbull, a lawyer who is chair of The Missouri Bar Elder Law Committee.  “Our guardianship law needs to be coordinated better with those other alternatives and be more sensitive to the needs of elderly people and people with disabilities.”
“State court statistics indicate that the number of probate actions after people die has declined in the past decade by about one-third probably because of the use of trusts and various non-probate transfers,” said Dan Wheeler, a probate commissioner in Jackson County.  “Statistics for Guardianship actions, however, indicate that they have increased by one half.  We expect the increase to continue as baby boomers age and people live longer with increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and we need to consider more alternatives to deal with these people needing support.”
“Missouri was a leader in passing the current law in 1983,” said David English, professor of law at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Chair of The Bar’s Probate and Trust Committee.  “Based upon recommendations from national experts and advocates in Missouri, we should update our law for the 21st Century given the challenges of serving people who cannot take care of themselves or their property.”
MO-WINGS has over 40 members and includes representatives of the probate judiciary, The Missouri Bar, public administrators and lay guardians, the Departments of Mental Health and Health and Senior Services, family members of people who have guardians, professionals serving people who are aged or who have disabilities, AARP, NAMI, Missouri Protection and Advocacy, and the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council.
For information, please contact Dolores Sparks at 800-500-7878 or email at  dsparks@moddcouncil.org