Once a person has been determined to be mentally incapacitated and the court establishes a guardianship or conservatorship, various fees and costs will be incurred by the guardian or conservator on behalf of the ward. In fact, guardianship or conservatorship is a costly business. There will be fees and costs incurred even before the guardianship or conservatorship is officially established by the court, as well as ongoing fees and costs after the guardian or conservator is in place.
Fees and Costs Before a Guardianship is Established
Various fees and costs will be incurred even before the person is determined to be incapacitated:
- Court costs for filing the initial petition to determine capacity - These will vary by state and can range anywhere from $100 to over $500.
- Attorney's fees for filing the petition to determine capacity - In some states these fees will be fixed by state law while in others attorneys are free to charge their standard hourly rates.
- Fees for physicians, nurses and/or social workers - The court will appoint various medical professionals and/or social workers to thoroughly examine the ward, and each will charge a fee for his or her services.
- Attorney’s fees for the alleged incapacitated person's court appointed attorney - The court will appoint an attorney to represent the best interests of the alleged incapacitated person, and the attorney will need to be paid for his or her services.
- Costs of notifying family members about the legal proceedings - When a petition to determine capacity is filed, the alleged incapacitated person's closest living relatives will be required to receive a copy of the petition. This can be accomplished by paying a personal process server to hand deliver a copy of the petition to the family member. Or, depending upon state law, the family may be able to accept a copy of the petition by certified mail or actually agree to be a party to the petition to determine capacity.
Fees and Costs After a Guardianship is Established
Once the guardianship or conservatorship has been established by the court, many of the ongoing duties and responsibilities of the guardian or conservator will require the payment of certain fees and costs:
- Attorney’s fees for the guardian or conservator - In many instances the guardian or conservator will be required to seek court approval before taking specific actions or making certain decisions on behalf of the ward. This, in turn, will lead to attorney's fees for the preparation and filing of the appropriate court petition and then the costs and fees of any hearings required by the guardianship judge.
- Attorney’s fees for the ward's attorney - If the judge requires the guardian or conservator to have a court hearing for any reason, then the ward's attorney will need to attend the hearing and be paid for doing so.
- Accounting fees - Each and every year the guardian or conservator will be required to file an accounting of how the ward's assets have been bought, sold, invested, and spent on behalf of the ward during the previous year. The guardian or conservator will either need to prepare this report, hire and pay an accountant to prepare it, or pay his or her attorney to prepare it.
- Court fees - Depending upon state law, court fees will be incurred when the judge requires a hearing and when the annual accounting is filed with the court.
The Most Significant Cost of Guardianship or Conservatorship
Of course, these initial and ongoing fees and costs aren't the most significant cost incurred due to a court ordered guardianship or conservatorship. In fact, the most significant cost has nothing to do with money at all. Instead, it's the emotional cost of the complete loss of control by both the ward and the ward's family.