Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Adult Guardianship (PA-AG) 7: Guardian of the Estate

The individual’s estate is managed in an open and transparent manner that:
  1. is consistent with service goals and the individual’s values;
  2. encourages the individual’s involvement to the greatest extent possible;
  3. protects the individual’s assets; and
  4. maintains or improves the individual’s financial standing as appropriate.
NA The agency only acts as guardian of the person.
2020 Edition

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Individuals who receive guardianship services maintain a level of independence and self-determination appropriate to their functional capacity, and are at minimized risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
Note: The terminology used may vary; however, any agency court-ordered to manage an individual’s finances is expected to meet the standards outlined in this section. That includes guardians of the destitute who may only be responsible for managing the individual’s public benefits. Guardian of the estate may also be responsible for managing the individual’s stocks and bonds, paying bills, income and property taxes, real estate, insurance, and maintaining eligibility for public benefits.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions: exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement.
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented. 
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.

Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  

  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.  
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner.  
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.  
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Procedures for:
    1. conducting inventory of client assets
    2. sharing financial information with persons served
    3. Guardian of the Estate financial management
  • Informational material on maintaining eligibility for public benefits
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Persons served
  • Review case records

PA-AG 7.01

The individual participates in estate planning and financial decision-making to the greatest extent possible given his or her assessed capacity for decision-making and subject to court order.

PA-AG 7.02

Upon initiation of guardianship, a thorough inventory of the individual’s assets is conducted to determine:
  1. the type and value of the individual’s assets;
  2. how assets are held, owned or managed;
  3. areas of risk or potential loss; and
  4. what assets should be maintained.
Examples: Assets can include real estate, such as residential or commercial property and personal properties such as investments, insurance, vehicles, and other valuables.

PA-AG 7.03

The guardian of the estate communicates regularly with the guardian of the person, or any other health care decision-maker, to ensure the financial plan is consistent with service goals. 
Examples: This may include communication within the agency or with outside providers. Some agencies have successfully implemented a checklist system, or similar protocol, for ensuring everyone involved with a particular case is aware of decisions made or work done on behalf of the individual.

PA-AG 7.04

Financial information is available to the individual upon request, as appropriate to their assessed capacity to handle such information and in accordance with state law or the court order.

PA-AG 7.05

The individual’s income is used to meet his or her identified needs.
Examples: Needs can include:
  1. food, clothing, shelter, and utilities;
  2. health care and prescriptions;
  3. home care, aide services, and housekeeping;
  4. transportation;
  5. insurance;
  6. legal or other professional fees, with court approval;
  7. pre-paid burial arrangements;
  8. social and recreational needs; and
  9. savings.

Fundamental Practice

PA-AG 7.06

The agency has procedures governing the management of funds that protect the assets of individuals, including:
  1. an accounting system that accurately tracks all transactions;
  2. authorization and processing of disbursements;
  3. regular, internal audit of client accounts;
  4. an external audit of client accounts conducted at least once every three years;
  5. segregation of duties regarding cash disbursements;
  6. tracking system to notify guardians of key due dates;
  7. separate accounts for each individual; and
  8. managing funds in accordance with the Prudent Investor Rule.


Money can be pooled into one bank account when accounting software has the capacity to manage each account separately, provide adequate documentation of income and expenditures, protect the holdings of each individual, and complies with all applicable contractual obligations.
Examples: Authorities that may require regular accounting reports include the courts, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration when the guardian has been appointed by the Social Security Administration to serve as a representative payee who manages the individual's Social Security payments. A growing number of social service agencies are being appointed by the Social Security Administration to serve as representative payees for beneficiaries who lack the capacity to make financial decisions.

Examples: Key due dates can include billing due dates, tax deadlines, legal notifications, contractual deadlines or expirations, expiration dates for public benefits; and due dates for submitting accounting reports to regulatory bodies and oversight entities, including the court.