Standards of Practice

The National Guardianship Association (NGA) initially developed seven Standards of Practice in 1991. These original standards were expanded and improved in 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2013. They can be found at the NGA website at National Guardianship Association Standards of Practice

There are 25 current NGA Standards:
  • Standard 1. Applicable Law and General Standards
  • Standard 2. The Guardian’s Relationship to the Court
  • Standard 3. The Guardian’s Professional Relationship with the Person
  • Standard 4. The Guardian’s Relationship with Family Members and Friends of the Person
  • Standard 5. The Guardian’s Relationship with Other Professionals and Providers of Service to the Person
  • Standard 6. Informed Consent
  • Standard 7. Standards for Decision-Making
  • Standard 8. Least Restrictive Alternative
  • Standard 9. Self-Determination of the Person
  • Standard 10. The Guardian’s Duties Regarding Diversity and Personal Preferences of the Person
  • Standard 11. Confidentiality
  • Standard 12. Duties of the Guardian of the Person
  • Standard 13. Guardian of the Person: Initial and Ongoing Responsibilities
  • Standard 14. Decision-Making About Medical Treatment
  • Standard 15. Decision-Making About Withholding and Withdrawal of Medical Treatment
  • Standard 16. Conflict of Interest: Ancillary and Support Services
  • Standard 17. Duties of the Guardian of the Estate
  • Standard 18. Guardian of the Estate: Initial and Ongoing Responsibilities
  • Standard 19. Property Management
  • Standard 20. Conflict of Interest: Estate, Financial, and Business Services
  • Standard 21. Termination and Limitation of Guardianship
  • Standard 22. Guardianship Service Fees
  • Standard 23. Management of Multiple Guardianship Cases
  • Standard 24. Quality Assurance
  • Standard 25. Sale or Purchase of a Guardianship Practice

NGA Ethical Principles

In 2016, the NGA identified the ten Ethical Principles that are reflected throughout the NGA Standards of Practice. These Principles distill into short statements the core of quality guardianship performance. 

The Ethical Principles include:
1. A guardian treats the person with dignity.
2. A guardian involves the person to the greatest extent possible in all decision making.
3. A guardian selects the option that places the least restrictions on the person’s freedom and rights.
4. A guardian identifies and advocates for the person’s goals, needs, and preferences. 
5. A guardian maximizes the self-reliance and independence of the person. 
6. A guardian keeps confidential the affairs of the person.
7. A guardian avoids conflicts of interest and self-dealing.
8. A guardian complies with all laws and court orders.
9. A guardian manages all financial matters carefully.
10. A guardian respects that the money and property being managed belongs to the person.

NGA Agency Standards

In 2007, the NGA adopted its Standards for Agencies and Programs Providing Guardianship Services. They can be found on the NGA website. The purpose of the Agency Standards is to provide guidance for programs striving to provide quality guardianship services.   The standards are written broadly, so that the principles may be applied to any agency or program, regardless of its size or structure. While aspirational, the standards convey good business practice that agencies and states should consider adopting into policy or law. 

The 2007 Agency Standards compliment the NGA Standards of Practice by defining additional NGA standards for acceptable business practice and program design for non-family guardians who are developing or operating agencies or programs providing professional guardianship services.  Like the NGA Standards of Practice, the Agency standards constitute what are considered best practices in guardianship.

The eight Agency Standards cover the following areas of practice:

  • Standard 1.  Adherence to the Model Code of Ethics/Standards of Practice
  • Standard 2.  Operating Standards
  • Standard 3.  Personnel Standards
  • Standard 4.  Fiscal Standards
  • Standard 5.  Program Services Standards
  • Standard 6.  Quality Improvement
  • Standard 7.  Grievance Procedures
  • Standard 8.  Critical Incidents

Additional Resources

There are few reported cases that refer to the National Guardianship Association Standards or any other standards for guardians.  Cases referencing standards include:

  • Guardianship of Doyle, 778 N.W.2d 342 (Mn. App. 2010); and two unreported Minnesota cases that involved the same guardian, same issues and issued the same day —Guardianship of Hohenauer, 2010 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 94; and Guardianship of Langa, 2010 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 90.
  • Guardianship of Stamm, 2005 Wash. App. LEXIS 3030 (unpublished court of appeals decision).
  • Major v. Rowe (In re Stephens), 965 So.2d 847 (Fla. 2007).
  • Guardianship of Fowler, 198 Wash. App. 1023 (2017). In ordering a guardian to disgorge excessive fees, the court noted that the guardian had violated (unspecified) standards of practice and fiduciary duties.
National Probate Court Standards Download

In a handful of states, state-specific standards have resulted from a combination of private and public initiatives.

Some states, such as North Dakota and Alaska, have adopted the NGA Standards by statute or by rule.  NGA’s Standards also served as a template for the development of state-specific standards in California, Texas, Arizona, and Washington.  In Oregon, an optional guardianship certification process requires compliance with standards similar to NGA’s.  New Hampshire has court-adopted procedures based on NGA Standards.

Congruent with national organizational efforts, some state guardianship associations, such as the Minnesota Association of Guardianship and Conservatorship, have adopted state-specific standards of practice. The court cases listed on this page indicate how courts are applying various standards of practice.

At this time, there are study committees considering the adoption of state-specific cases in Ohio, Idaho, and Oregon.

Many states have guardianship handbooks or brochures offering guidance to guardians or potential guardians, but these do not have the force of law.