Article 17A. SCPA Proceedings

Article 17A. SCPA Proceedings


Prior to 1969 parents of mentally retarded children were concerned about guardianship of their children after they reached their majority. SCPA Article 17 proceedings would no longer be available and they did not wish to face the draconian committeeship proceedings which later became conservatorship proceedings and then Article 81 proceedings under the Mental Hygiene Law. During the 1960’s the Bennett Commission, which was charged to review all substantive and procedural laws dealing with trusts and estates and ultimately enacted SCPA and EPTL, were mindful of those parents concerns. Surrogate Bennett of Nassau County had numerous communications with the Cerebral Palsy Association headquartered in Nassau County, as well as representatives from AHRC. With their input, and various other concerned groups, the Legislature in the late 1960’s decided to create proceedings to be tailor made to meet the needs of the mentally retarded and those suffering from learning disabilities. Because of the work that Surrogate Bennett had undertaken through his commission, he was consulted in the creation of a new procedure to deal with the issue. 
 
Judge Bennett and his Commission clearly appreciated the job assigned to them by the Legislature to modernize and simplify the laws dealing with trusts and estates. The official name of the commission was the Temporary State Commission on the Modernization, Revision and Simplification of the Law of Estates. It was their belief that laws should be formulated by concentrating on the needs of the many and not to enact laws that would burden the many because of problems of some few. If problems dealing with the few were necessary, that could be dealt with without causing undue hardship by way of delay and expense for the many. That philosophy was put in play in developing what ultimately became Article 17A of SCPA.
 
Often it was parents with children with Down syndrome and other forms of apparent mental disability who sought a mechanism to ensure that the personal needs of their children would be attended to upon their demise. They primarily were concerned about the care of their disabled children when they themselves became disabled or died. Accordingly, the parents sort support for legislation that would be specifically geared to the needs of their children and not be subject to a system addressing others who may be in need of some type of guardianship proceeding such as our present Article 81 proceedings.
 
As a result of the efforts of many, specific and specialized proceedings, in a specialized court apart from Article 81 practice and procedure was put in place as Article 17A of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act but became law in 1969 (L. 1969, c.1143). Only the Surrogate’s Court and none other was entrusted with these responsibilities. The proceedings were purposely structured to be cost effective, uncomplicated and user friendly to those within this special need.