Guardianship Signature Program
Volunteering for the Signature Program
The Guardianship Signature Program is endorsed by the Board of District Court Judges and the Bar Commission. This program provides to judges a list of lawyers who have volunteered to represent respondents in guardianship and conservatorship proceedings when the respondents do not have counsel of their own choice. See Utah Code §75-5-303. The representation is for free or on a sliding scale if the client's income qualifies, or for reasonable and necessary attorney fees if the client's income is more than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines.
To volunteer for the Signature Program, go to the "Check YES! Survey" (utahbar.org) of the Utah State Bar. The volunteer lawyer can select the district in which he or she is willing to accept appointments. To participate in the Signature Program, an attorney must:
- maintain malpractice insurance (Because this program merges pro bono and modest means representation, the Bar's malpractice insurance does not cover participants.);
- be admitted to practice law in Utah and be 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 and described in the next section;
- certify to the Utah State Bar as to competence in guardianship and conservatorship law and procedures or complete the basic course in guardianship and conservatorship law and procedures.
In addition, an attorney is encouraged to biannually complete at least 4 hours of MCLE in guardianship and conservatorship law and procedures.
If an attorney does not have an e-filing account, the attorney may apply for a free account by contacting the Access to Justice Director for an agreement and application for an e-filing account. The attorney must use the account in accordance with the e-filing agreement.
Fee limits in the Bar's Pro Bono and Modest Means programs
|Income as a Percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines||Maximum Hourly Fee*||Maximum Flat Fee*|
|Up to 125%||$0||$0|
|More than 125% to 200%||$50||Up to 35% of the normal fee charged for the same service, or a flat fee that is calculated based on hourly rates not exceeding $50.00 per hour.|
|More than 200% to 300%||$75||Up to 50% of normal fee charged for the same service, or a flat fee that is calculated based on hourly rates not exceeding $75.00 per hour.|
|More than 300%||Reasonable and necessary||Reasonable and necessary|
* 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.
The Executive Committee that administers the Signature Program will arrange for a mentor for a participating lawyer. To request a mentor, contact the Access to Justice Director at the Utah State Bar.
Second and third-year law students and recent law graduates
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 Signature Program attorneys in representing their clients under Rule 14-807, Law school student and law school graduate legal assistance. 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 investigation, do research, prepare pleadings and other papers, and represent the client at hearings. 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.
- Certificate of eligibility, stipulation and permission for participation - PDF | Word
- Bar Admissions Certificate - PDF | Word
Basic course in guardianship and conservatorship law and procedures
In order to volunteer for the Guardianship Signature Program, attorneys must certify to the Utah State Bar as to competence in guardianship and conservatorship law and procedures or complete a basic course in guardianship and conservatorship law and procedures.
The link below is a free online training that satisfies this requirement and is eligible for 1 hour of CLE credit. It contains four sections and quiz questions appear periodically. The first section introduces you to the program and also a scenario that is modified throughout to illustrate several different ways in which guardianship cases may present themselves. The second section provides an overview of the basic procedures of an initial guardianship proceeding. The third section guides you through the role of the respondent's attorney, and the fourth and final section provides additional resources.
Note: Training Quizzes must be completed using Internet Explorer or Safari as your web browser, otherwise you may not be able to print your certificates of completion.
An additional training that is eligible for 2 hours of CLE credit and also satisfies the Guardianship Signature Program competency requirement is below in two segments. It was originally presented on December 2, 2015 and the handouts may be found here.
- Segment 1 - The Basics of Adult Guardianships and Conservatorships - YouTube
Presenter: Langdon Owen of Cohne Kinghorn PC
- Segment 2 - A Tour of the Court Website on Guardianships and Conservatorships and a Guide to the Use of the Forms There - YouTube
Presenter: Kent Alderman of Lewis Hansen
Communicating with Proposed Wards and Evidence of Disability
Presenter: Rob Denton of the Disability Law Center
To receive CLE credit for either the 1 hour or 2 hour training, attorneys will need to submit the Certificate of Completion along with Self-Study Form 5 (utahbar.org) to the Utah State Bar's MCLE Department.
For the 1 hour online training, the Certificate of Completion appears at the end of the online training. For the 2 hour training, the Certificate of Completion appears at the end of the handouts.
Signature Program forms
See the Forms section at the bottom of this page.
As provided in the preamble to the Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney who has agreed to represent the respondent will:
- provide the client with an informed understanding of the client's legal rights and obligations and explain their practical implications;
- zealously assert the client's position under the statutes and rules; and
- seek a result advantageous to the client consistent with the requirements of honest dealing with others.
As warranted by the circumstances, the attorney will also:
- file for the judge's signature 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 (See, for example, the court's webpage on Options for Protecting an Adult with Diminished Capacity.);
- investigate the proper limited authority of a guardian, ensuring that the court grants a full guardianship only if no alternative exists (See Section 75-5-304 and the court's webpage on Authority and Responsibilities of a Guardian.);
- investigate whether all interested persons have been listed for service of the notice of hearing and petition (See Section 75-5-309 and "Service of the petition and notice of hearing" in the court's webpage on Procedures for appointing a guardian.);
- investigate the priority of the proposed guardian (See Section 75-5-311.);
- consider requesting a guardian ad litem under RPC 1.14 to represent the respondent's best interests (this is rare);
- assist the client in nominating a guardian or conservator (See the court's webpage on Nominating a Guardian and Conservator.);
- ensure that the client is present at the hearing unless excused under Section 75-5-303(5);
- present the client's proposals and contest proposals with which the client does not agree;
- participate in mediation with or on behalf of the client;
- try the case if needed;
- ensure the adequacy of the findings of fact (See Section 75-5-304.); and
- continue to represent the client until the conditions of Section 75-5-303 have been met.
In addition, the attorney should note the following Rules of Professional Conduct.
- Rule 1.1. Competence;
- Rule 1.2. Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority Between Client and Attorney;
- Rule 1.3. Diligence;
- Rule 1.4. Communication;
- Rule 1.14. Client with Diminished Capacity;
- Rule 3.1. Meritorious Claims and Contentions; and
- Rule 3.3. Candor Toward the Tribunal; and
- Rule 14-301, Standards of Professionalism and Civility.
Section 75-5-303 requires the district court judge to appoint an attorney to represent the respondent in a guardianship petition if the respondent does not have counsel of his or her choice. Section 75-5-407, is similar—permitting, but not requiring, the judge to do so. The Signature Program provides a roster of attorneys willing to represent adult respondents in guardianship and conservatorship proceedings for no fee, but who may be paid under Section 75-5-303 as circumstances warrant.
In addition, the Signature Program provides an alternative for petitioners and petitioners' attorneys other than to recruit an attorney to represent the respondent. And it allows judges to appoint an attorney in compliance with Informal Opinion 10-2 and Informal Opinion 12-02.
Requesting appointed counsel and placing the client with an attorney
In the petition or in a separate form, anyone can request that the judge appoint an attorney to represent the respondent. For Signature Program Forms, see the Forms section at the bottom of this page. For other information and forms, see our page on Procedure for Appointing a Guardian for an Adult.
Petitioners, their counsel and court clerks should make every attempt to identify the need for appointed counsel as soon as possible. This is so the appointed attorney has time to talk with his or her client and investigate the case, making the initial hearing as productive as possible. 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 Signature Program, 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 accept the placement. If the clerk is not successful in placing the client, s/he will contact the Signature Program's Executive Committee to assist in placing the client.
Claim for costs and attorney fees made to guardian or conservator
Under 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.
The Signature Program 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. A representative from the Administrative Office of the Courts serves as liaison between the Executive Committee and the district court. The Executive Committee will:
- recruit attorneys to participate in the Signature Program;
- develop a curriculum for basic and continuing education in guardianship and conservatorship law and procedures;
- find a mentor for an attorney as requested by the attorney;
- develop a law student assistance component under Rule 14-807;
- assist in placing clients; and
- modify the Signature Program as experience warrants.
Forms to appoint an attorney to represent the respondent
- Checklist - PDF | Word
- Request to Appoint an Attorney to Represent the Respondent - PDF | Word
- Order Appointing an Attorney to Represent the Respondent - PDF | Word
Notice of appearance and withdrawal
Forms to assign a court visitor
- Checklist - PDF | Word
- Request to Assign a Court Visitor - PDF | Word
- Order Assigning Court Visitor to Report on Request to Excuse Respondent from the Hearing- PDF | Word
- Order Assigning Court Visitor to Report on the Well Being- PDF | Word
- Order Assigning Court Visitor to Report on an Audit of Court Records- PDF | Word
- Order Assigning Court Visitor to Report on the Guardian's and Protected Person's Whereabouts- PDF | Word
Forms to appoint an examiner
- Checklist - PDF | Word
- Request for Order to Examine Respondent - PDF | Word
- Order Appointing Physician to Examine the Respondent - PDF | Word
- Report on Clinical Evaluation - PDF | Word
- Instructions to the Evaluator - PDF | Word
Forms to object to the petition
Invoice for fees and costs
Other guardianship information and forms
The Utah state courts have published on their website information about planning ahead and alternatives to guardianship, the guardian's responsibilities, court procedures and forms, the protected person's rights, community resources, and more.
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.