Summit Information

The National Guardianship Network (NGN) will sponsor the nation’s Fourth National Guardianship Summit, a consensus conference to be held on May 13 – 15, 2021 at the Syracuse University College of Law, as described below:

First convened in 2002, NGN is a working group of national organizations dedicated to effective adult guardianship law and practice. NGN includes twelve national organizations:

  • AARP
  • American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging;
  • American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law;
  • Alzheimer’s Association;
  •  American College of Trust and Estate Counsel;
  •  Center for Guardianship Certification;
  •  National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
  •  National Adult Protective Services Association
  • National Center for State Courts
  •  National College of Probate Judges
  •  National Disability Rights Network
  •  National Guardianship Association 

Thus, NGN truly includes the nation’s leadership in the guardianship field. It is a collaborative group with a significant track record of reform. 


State guardianship law has undergone significant reform in the past 30 years, launched in part by three landmark consensus conferences – the 1987 “Wingspread” conference which left its mark on statutory and practice changes; and the 2001 “Wingspan” Second National Guardianship Conference, which produced 68 key recommendations in law, practice, education and research; and the 2011 Third National Guardianship Summit, which recommended post-appointment standards for guardian conduct and decision-making.  These conferences have been an engine driving needed change.

In 2021, it will be ten years since the historic 2011 summit.  It has been nearly a decade of continued demographic shifts in aging and disability, striking developments in information technology, marked medical advances, continued reform of state guardianship law, and a new uniform guardianship act.   

In addition to the above trends and developments, much has changed on the guardianship landscape since 2011. The past decade has seen the emergence of the concept of supported decision-making – a decision-making model or series of strategies and principles that has gained recognition as an alternative to guardianship.  Supported decision-making highlights the self-determination of adults subject to or potentially subject to guardianship.  

At the same time, government reports, research and media articles have profiled a rise in financial exploitation and abuse by guardians, and a consequent need for stronger court oversight, better monitoring technology, and creative judicial solutions.  Therefore, NGN has titled the Summit “Maximizing Autonomy and Ensuring Accountability,” encompassing both of these pronounced trends – supported decision-making and the need for better court oversight — to jump-start needed changes in policy and practice.

Conference Plans

The summit will be an invitational consensus conference that draws together a vibrant mix of attorneys, judges, guardians, aging and disability advocates, adult protective services staff, and others. The summit will include approximately 80 participants selected by the NGN organizations and other co-sponsoring organizations, as well as federal and other observers.  In addition, a summit website hosted by the college will allow for broad-based input by interested parties.

NGN has selected the Syracuse University College of Law in Syracuse, New York to host the Fourth National Guardianship Summit. The college has a long-standing commitment to elder law and disability law. It will contribute the time and skills of its staff. Syracuse law students will serve as researchers, as well as reporters for the summit working groups. The college has committed to reserve a Syracuse Law Review issue for academic year 2021-2022 to the summit proceedings. The lead contact for Syracuse is Professor Nina Kohn, who served as the Reporter for the 2017 Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship and Other Protective Arrangements Act.

On behalf of NGN, the National Disability Rights Network and the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging have received initial funding from the State Justice Institute and the Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging[pending] to support the summit, along with contributions from each of the NGN organizations. 

The summit will be a 2 ½ day working event. Papers and issue briefs prepared in advance will serve as a rich set of resources to inform summit discussions.  Participants will meet in a plenary session, and then be divided into structured, facilitated working groups, which will form the core of the proceedings. Over the course of three iterative sessions, the working groups will develop proposed recommendations for revision or endorsement by the plenary body.

NGN has secured the commitment of 17 authors and co-authors with the unique knowledge, skills and vision to prepare the papers that will guide the discussions. Each paper will address a cutting edge issue that bears on either strengthening individual autonomy, or preventing and addressing guardianship abuse – or both.  Key discussion points in the papers will be highlighted in concise issue briefs designed for use by the summit working groups. The papers will form the basis of articles intended for publication in the Syracuse Law Review. View the complete list of papers and authors.

Looking Ahead

The 2021 Fourth National Guardianship Summit is already garnering high interest and high expectations in the law, aging, disability, judicial and guardianship communities. NGN has taken initiative to partner with the College of Law, to seek organizational commitments from its members, and to select paper topics and authors well-equipped to address the topics. NGN is reaching out to additional stakeholders for broad-based participation as co-sponsors. There is substantial momentum for this exciting effort, as well as a considerable historic track record.