Effective July 2016, South Dakota has a new law aimed at protecting senior citizens and adults with disabilities from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

The following is a summary of key provisions of the new law:

Reporting clarification: Mandatory reporting language has been clarified to provide that exploitation is a form of abuse that mandatory reporters must disclose. Additionally, the Attorney General's Office now has an increased role in the investigation of abuse. Also, the general public is given clear authority to voluntarily report vulnerable adult exploitation concerns, and the law provides financial institutions with immunity for reporting cases.

Criminal Punishment:

  • "Emotional and psychological abuse" of elders and adults with a disability is now a Class 1 criminal misdemeanor.
  • Theft by exploitation of an elder or adult with a disability is now a felony.

Civil right of actions and remedies: Vulnerable adults now have the ability to obtain orders for protection, recognizing that many cases involve situations where the adult resides at a private residence. Vulnerable adults are also granted an ability to recoup property and recover attorney fees. Courts now have the ability to grant remedies, including removing the offender from a vulnerable adult's accounts and divesting the offender from any probate or non­probate assets that he or she would otherwise receive.

Powers of attorney: Powers of attorney now have to be signed by the principal and witnessed by two adults or by a notary public. In addition, the appointment of a guardian or conservator divests an agent under a power of attorney of his or her conflicting authority.

Guardianship and conservatorship: Now all proposed guardians and conservators must submit to a background check prior to appointment, and generally felons may not serve in those capacities. In addition, sureties must notify the court and others if a guardian's or conservator's bond is not renewed. Finally, employees of a private agency or facility that provides substantial services to a protected person may not be appointed as a guardian or conservator so as to avoid conflicts of interest.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.