Finding Legal Help
You are not required to hire an attorney, but legal matters can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. See the Finding Legal Help page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help.
Como encontrar ayuda legal
Usted no está obligado a contratar un abogado, pero los asuntos legales pueden ser complicados. Considere la posibilidad de hablar con un abogado para hablar de sus opciones. Para información sobre cómo obtener ayuda legal vea nuestra página Como encontrar ayuda legal.
Guardianship Signature Program (GSP)
What is the Guardianship Signature Program?
According to Utah Code 75-5-503, "Unless the allegedly incapacitated person has counsel of the person's own choice, the court shall appoint an attorney to represent the person in the proceeding..." The Guardianship Signature Program (GSP) is in place to help the courts address this mandate. The GSP connects volunteer attorneys with un-represented respondents in guardianship proceedings.
The GSP is a simple concept – qualified attorneys agree to receive email requests for representation in districts of their choosing. When email requests are sent, attorneys interested in accepting an appointment respond to the request and get assigned to the case.
Because of its simplicity, once attorneys have signed up, no additional work is required on their part until or unless they agree to represent a respondent. Moreover, because the attorney is volunteering for a Utah State Bar signature program, the Bar will provide malpractice insurance for program participants.
Who manages the GSP?
The GSP is a joint effort by the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Utah State Bar. It is endorsed by the Board of District Court Judges and the Bar Commission, and managed through the Guardianship Reporting and Monitoring Program (GRAMP).
The GSP is administered by an Executive Committee with appointees from the Elder Law Section, the Estate Planning Section, the Disability Law Center, Utah Legal Services, the 3L Guardianship Project Fellowship at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, and the Access to Justice Director at the Utah State Bar. The GRAMP Program Coordinator, from the Administrative Office of the Courts, serves as liaison between the Executive Committee and the district court.
According to the American Bar Association, participating in a program like the GSP can be personally and professionally beneficial for attorneys:
- Whether the attorney is fresh out of law school, established in a career, or retired from the field, the GSP can provide opportunities for substantial and meaningful direct interaction with clients.
- The GSP allows attorneys to focus on a specialized area of law and develop skills through experiences that might not be available elsewhere.
- The need for attorneys in the guardianship arena is ever-present and potentially increasing as the "baby-boomer" generation ages. Consequently, this provides attorneys with the chance to enhance their professional development, while also giving back to the community.
Am I Qualified?
There are three basic requirements an attorney must meet to participate in the GSP:
- Be admitted to practice law in Utah and a member of the Utah State Bar in good standing.
- Accept the fee limits established for the Bar's Pro Bono and Modest Means programs, as described below.
- Show competency in guardianship and conservatorship law and procedures.
How do I show competency in guardianship/conservatorship law?
In order to volunteer for the GSP, attorneys must either: (a) certify to the Utah State Bar as to competence in guardianship and conservatorship law and procedures, or (b) complete a basic training course in guardianship and conservatorship law and procedures.
Attorneys that would like to complete the basic course can access the following online training to satisfy this requirement:
The Basics of Adult Guardianships and Conservatorships - Part 1 and Part 2 (with accompanying handouts)
This option is a recorded presentation from December 2015. It has been divided into two parts, covering the basics of adult guardianships and conservatorships, the different court forms used in guardianship cases and how to access them on the Utah State Courts website, communicating with respondents, and evidence of disability.
This training is free, and a Certificate of Completion at the end of the handouts can be submitted for 2 hours of CLE credit.
Can law students participate?
Yes! Under Rule 14-807, the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah has organized a program for second and third year students and recent law graduates, educated in the law, procedure and practicalities of guardianship, to assist GSP attorneys in representing their clients.
The students and recent graduates, under the direct and immediate personal supervision and in the presence of a resident attorney, can conduct or assist with interviews and other investigations, do research, prepare pleadings and other papers, and represent the client at hearings.
To participate, or to request the assistance of a law student or recent law graduate, please email the 3L Guardianship Fellow at the S.J. Quinney College of Law or the clinical professor. Related forms can be found below, in the section titled, "Forms and Resources."
Mentoring is also available. The Executive Committee that administers the GSP can arrange for a mentor to assist a participating attorney. To request a mentor, contact the Utah State Bar Access to Justice Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will I Be Compensated?
* Although the Signature Program uses the pro bono and modest means income standards for determining fees, there are no restrictions on income or assets to qualify for appointed counsel. Normally the attorney's maximum fee will be determined by the respondent's income. However, the respondent's assets should be considered as a source for establishing and paying the fee when the respondent has substantial assets and modest income or for other good cause.
Resolution of income qualification can be deferred until the end of the proceedings and the attorney and client have evaluated the client's estate.
Under Utah Code Section 75-5-303, the respondent's costs and attorney fees are paid from the respondent's estate, unless the court determines that the petition is without merit, in which case the petitioner must pay the respondent's costs and attorney fees.
Claims for costs and fees should be submitted to the guardian or conservator, if one has been appointed, or, if not, then to the petitioner or to the client, whichever is responsible for payment. A memorandum of costs can be filed under URCP 54 and an affidavit of attorney fees can be filed under URCP 73.
How Do I Sign Up?
Getting started with the GSP is a simple process; just follow these steps to get signed up:
What happens next?
Once enrolled, you can expect to receive emails similar to the following:
A Petition has been filed by John Smith requesting the appointment of a guardian for Michael Smith. The Respondent does not have a lawyer of his own choice and the Court is requesting an attorney to accept representation of the Respondent. The hearing is scheduled for November 26th at 9:30am.
The client will be placed with the first lawyer to respond affirmatively. Please respond no later than 12pm on Tuesday, October 29th.
You will only receive emails from the districts you selected. If you are interested in accepting the case, reply to the sender to volunteer.
Appointing an Attorney
The Guardianship Process graphic provides a visual description of the typical path for guardianship cases. Some procedures may vary from court to court, and the judge may require procedures not described here, based on the circumstances of a case.
Utah law requires that the respondent be represented by a lawyer. If the respondent has not chosen a lawyer, the court must appoint one, and may need to continue the hearing until the respondent has a lawyer.
How is a request made?
In the petition or in a separate form, anyone can request that the judge appoint an attorney to represent the respondent.
- Petitioners, their counsel, and court clerks should make every attempt to identify the need for appointed counsel as soon as possible.
- A timely request gives the appointed attorney time to talk with the client and investigate the case, making the initial hearing as productive as possible.
- The request is made by completing a Request to Appoint an Attorney to Represent the Respondent" as found below under "Forms and Resources."
- If necessary, the judge may appoint an emergency guardian under Section 75-5-310 or a temporary guardian under Section 75-5-310.5, if the conditions of those sections are met.
If the judge refers a respondent to the GSP, the clerk will notify the attorneys who have volunteered for that district of the need to place the client. The client will be placed with the first attorney to respond to the request. If the clerk is not successful in placing the client, the GRAMP Program Coordinator will assist in finding representation for the client.
What are the attorney's responsibilities?
The respondent's lawyer represents the respondent in the traditional sense as an advocate for the respondent. Each case may be different, but in general, attorneys for the GSP may expect to:
- File for the judge's signature on an order appointing the attorney
- File a notice of appearance
- Communicate with the client
- Investigate the nature and extent of the client's claimed incapacity
- Investigate the nature and extent of the client's estate
- Investigate alternatives to guardianship and the proper limited authority of a guardian
- Investigate whether all interested persons have been listed for service of the notice of hearing and petition
- Investigate the priority of the proposed guardian
- Assist the client in nominating a guardian or conservator
- Ensure that the client is present at the hearing unless excused (Section 75-5-303(5)).
- Present the client's proposals and contest proposals as appropriate
- Participate in mediation with or on behalf of the client
- Try the case, if needed
- Ensure the adequacy of the findings of fact
- Continue to represent the client until the conditions of Section 75-5-303 have been met
Is an attorney always required?
According to Utah Code Section 75-5-303(5)(d), the court may waive the requirement of a lawyer for the respondent if all the following criteria are met:
- The respondent is the biological or adopted child of the petitioner.
- The value of the respondent's entire estate does not exceed $20,000 as established by the petitioner's affidavit in accordance with Utah Code Section 75-3-1201.
- The respondent appears in court with the petitioner.
- The respondent is given the opportunity to communicate, to the extent possible, his or her acceptance of the appointment of petitioner.
- The court has tried to appoint an attorney for 60 days, but no attorney from the court's list of attorneys who have volunteered to represent respondents (GSP) is able to provide counsel.
- The court is satisfied that counsel is not necessary to protect the respondent's interests.
- The court appoints a visitor as described in Section 75-5-303(4).
For details on appointing a Court Visitor, visit: Court Visitor Program (CVP)
Forms and Resources
- Volunteering with the Guardianship Signature Program - PDF
- Certificate of Eligibility and Permission to Participate in Court Proceedings - PDF | Word
- Bar Admissions Certificate - PDF | Word
Request an Attorney
- Request to Appoint an Attorney to Represent the Respondent - PDF | Word
- Notice of Appearance of Counsel - PDF | Word
- Notice of Withdrawal of Counsel - PDF | Word
- Invoice for Fees and Costs - PDF | Word
- Objection to the Petition - PDF | Word
- Request to Assign a Court Visitor - PDF | Word
- Request for Order to Examine Respondent - PDF | Word
- Report on Clinical Evaluation - PDF | Word
- Instructions to the Evaluator - PDF | Word
The following links provide additional information related to guardianship:
- Guardianship and Conservatorship
- Life Planning and Probate
- Procedure for Appointing a Guardian for an Adult
- Guardianship of a Minor
- Court Visitor Program (CVP)
- Volunteering for the Court Visitor Program (CVP)
- Court Visitor Resources and Forms
- Guardianship Reporting and Monitoring Program (GRAMP)
- Utah WINGS
Guardianship Reporting and Monitoring Program (GRAMP)
Administrative Office of the Courts
450 South State Street
P.O. Box 140241
Salt Lake City, UT 84114
GRAMP Program Coordinator
The Utah State Courts mission is to provide the people an open, fair, efficient, and independent system for the advancement of justice under the law.