All About Guardianship or Conservatorship Cost

Dec 24, 2023 By Susan Kelly

When someone (called "wards") are deemed legally incapable of making decisions for themselves or managing their own financial or personal affairs, the court will appoint a guardian or conservator to act on their behalf. It usually happens when a concerned friend or family member files a petition with the court to become the incapacitated person's legal representative.

The conservatorship of pop sensation Britney Spears is the most high-profile case ever. Aged 39 in 2021, Spears contested the conservatorship in place since 2008.

Guardianship and conservatorship proceedings may appear to be a cheap way out of a difficult situation, but in reality, they can be rather pricey. In some cases, costs may arise even before guardianship or conservatorship has been formally created. One example is the fees associated with submitting the initial petition to establish capacity.

It's possible that becoming designated as a guardian of the property will also require you to post a bond. Costs may be incurred throughout the agreement. Nursing care, in-home care, assisted living, housing, utilities, groceries, medicine, and repairs to your home all fall under this category.

Watchdogs vs. Environmentalists

To be clear, conservatorship and guardianship are two different legal structures. Depending on the level of infirmity, a guardian may also be responsible for the ward's care, feeding, and supervision. A guardian's duties may also involve handling the ward's small financial matters, such as paying for routine living expenditures.

The ward's financial matters are turned over to the conservator. Generally speaking, if it appears that the guardian would have to manage more than $25,000 per year on behalf of the ward without a conservator, the court will appoint a conservator. The precise threshold can depend on state legislation. A court may appoint two different people—a conservator and a guardian—for some wards that need both. Sometimes the same person will fill both roles.

Legal Costs of Filing

Even before it is decided that a person is disabled, several costs must be covered. Petitioning the court to ascertain capacity is a first step that can cost anything from zero to several thousand dollars, depending on the state. The expense of hiring an attorney to assist with the petition preparation and filing will also need to be factored in.

In most states, guardianships are less likely to incur filing fees than conservatorships. For instance, as of 2021, the District of Columbia charged $45 to file for conservatorship but not for guardianship.

Billable Hours for Lawyers Throughout the conservatorship or guardianship process, the court will appoint counsel to look out for the allegedly incapacitated person's best interests. This legal counsel also requires payment. In many jurisdictions, the ward must have established contact with the attorney.

Some states have laws that cap attorneys' fees at a certain amount, while others allow them to charge whatever they see fit, which can be several hundred dollars per hour. To operate on behalf of their ward, guardians and conservators often need to obtain further court approval after their appointment. 10 In turn, this will cause you to spend money hiring an attorney to draft and file the necessary court paperwork. The judge's hearing costs and fees must also be factored in.

In most cases, if the judge orders a court hearing for the ward, the ward's counsel will be present and compensated for their time.

Payments to Other Experts

In most cases, it is also necessary to pay the associated costs of seeing a doctor, nurse, or social worker. These experts can aid in determining whether or not the patient is truly unable to care for themselves. The judge will hire them to conduct an in-depth evaluation of the ward, and they will each collect their fee.

Dispensing Paperwork

Generally, a notice of the proceedings must be given to the disabled person's closest living relatives. After a petition to assess ability has been filed with the court, a copy of the petition must be provided. A personal process server can be hired to hand-deliver copies of the petition to each family member. In some states, the family may be willing to accept copies of the petition sent via certified mail.

The petition to evaluate capacity may include family members as parties if they choose to participate. After the Appointment of a Guardian or Conservator, A guardian or conservator will incur expenses in carrying out several of their obligations.

A yearly report detailing the conservator's management of the ward's property is typically needed. The conservator, an accountant, or a lawyer must be paid to compile this report. Some states mandate that conservators post bail to protect the ward's inheritance from the conservator in the case of misconduct. Money is also needed for that. The guardian or conservator often fronts the money for the initial attorney expenses at the outset of the procedure; the ward's estate may be ordered to reimburse them late.

Related Articles