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Guardian May Charge Fees, Even if Family

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Guardian may charge fees

A guardian may charge fees for acting as guardian. That basic principle is not really surprising or disputable. But the notion persists that this important work should not cost, or at least be inexpensive.

We have written about guardianship fees before. The subject comes back up because of a recent Florida Court of Appeals decision we read. It does not break new ground, but serves as reinforcement of the reality that a guardian may charge fees. And, as it happens, the guardian in that case is the daughter of the person over whom she exercises authority. That doesn’t change the basic legal principles, as it turns out.

A word about language, to start with. Florida uses the term “guardian” to describe a guardian over the estate of a person (what we would call a conservator in Arizona). Somewhat confusingly (to Arizona practitioners, anyway), Florida also uses “guardian” to describe the guardian of the person — what we would also call a guardian.

The Florida guardianship case

The actual reported decision in Florida is extremely brief. In fact, we will spend more words explaining it than the case itself includes. But here are the basic facts:

Penelope Jones was appointed as guardian (apparently of the person and estate) of her father William Edward Jones. Eventually she filed a request with the judge in Orlando, Florida, seeking payment of fees for her action as her father’s guardian.

The judge refused to authorize fees for Ms. Jones. She ruled that Ms. Jones had “an obligation to provide such services for the ward without compensation due to the father/daughter familial relationship between the Ward and the guardian.”

Ms. Jones appealed. The Florida Court of Appeals, in a very brief opinion, reversed that holding and sent it back to the trial judge to determine the appropriate fee for Ms. Jones’ actions as guardian.

OK, a family guardian may charge fees — but how much?

The appellate court’s decision doesn’t set the reasonable fee for Ms. Jones, but it does explain how that fee is to be derived. Even though she is the daughter of Mr. Jones, she should be compensated for doing what is “necessary to discharge a guardian’s duty to the ward.”

But aren’t some of those things really what a child can be expected to do, and without charging? Probably, yes. And the appellate court is clear: Ms. Jones is not entitled to be compensated for “merely doing what any daughter does.” Jones v. Guardianship of Jones, February 14, 2020.

To the extent that Ms. Jones is acting as guardian of her father’s estate (or, as we would say, as conservator), it may be easy to determine what she is entitled to be paid for. Much more complicated are those things she might do as guardian of her father’s person. Will she be entitled to payment for personal visits? How about help with housekeeping, or overseeing meal preparation or medications?

The Florida Court of Appeals suggested one way to check on what the guardian may charge fees for:

On remand, the trial court should determine the services that would reasonably be performed by a professional or other nonfamily member guardian necessary to discharge a guardian’s duty to the ward. The guardian would be entitled to compensation to the extent those services were actually performed and properly documented.

Is the rule the same in Arizona?

Generally, yes. A conservator or a guardian may charge fees in Arizona, as well. If the guardian or conservator is a family member, the court may approve a rate lower than a professional’s fee. But that would primarily be recognition of the training and oversight of professional fiduciaries, rather than any reduction just to reflect the familial relationship.

To be sure, there are plenty of things a conservator (or, especially, a guardian) may do that replicate things close family members are usually expected to take care of. But that does not mean family members can not be paid for performing those tasks. The oversight of the court, the duty to perform fiduciary acts with care, and the need for training and documentation all support even family members charging a reasonable fee.

Do family members always charge fees? Of course not. In fact, in our experience family members usually forego fees for acting as guardian. It may be different for conservatorship, though — family members are less likely to skip compensation when they are required to manage finances. That makes sense to us, in fact.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

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Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.