When a change in law or State practice results in ad hoc or large-scale appointment
of legal guardians, carefully examine the expenditures for each case. If the appointments
are simply for the convenience of the institution or agency, payment of guardianship
fees out of the beneficiary's funds may not constitute a proper use of benefits.
There are several situations where the payment of legal guardianship fees would not
constitute proper use:
The guardianship cost and fees are included as part of a State's support obligation
to the beneficiary.
The costs or fees relate to an unsuccessful petition for guardianship.
The beneficiary's funds will be depleted by the guardianship costs to the point where
there are unmet personal needs.
The many variables affecting the amount of guardianship fees (e.g., the amount and
type of assets owned by the beneficiary and the applicable State and local laws) make
it difficult to provide guidelines on what constitutes “excessive” guardianship fees.
Decide each case on its merits.
If the guardianship and attorney fees represent services in connection with the beneficiary's
total estate (i.e. all real and personal property owned by the beneficiary) and have
been approved by the court, take no further action if the benefits are only a small
part of the estate.
In those cases in which the Social Security benefits represent at least 50 percent
of the estate, and the costs associated with the guardianship proceedings and/or attorney
fees appear excessive in light of the beneficiary's income and resources, refer the
case to the appropriate regional chief counsel (RCC) through the regional office program
staff, for review. See SI 00810.120D. for discussion of guardianship fees in the SSI program.