Michigan’s No Fault Act provides for the payment of all reasonable charges incurred for guardian and conservator expenses.  The Probate Pro regularly litigates the failure of a personal injury protection (PIP) insurance company paying guardian and conservator expenses. The following presentation is a description of the current state of Michigan law relative to allowable expenses relative to guardianships and conservatorships.

Michigan No Fault Act: Guardian and Conservator Expenses

Pursuant to MCL 500.3107(1)(a), allowable expenses consist of all reasonable charges incurred for reasonably necessary products, services and accommodations for an injured person’s care, recovery, or rehabilitation. The Michigan courts have consistently ruled that expenses associated with both guardianships and conservatorships can be allowable expenses under the Michigan No Fault Act.

Case Law: Guardian and Conservator Expenses

In Heinz v. Auto Club Ins. Ass’n, 214 Mich. App 195; 543 NW2d 4 (1985), the Michigan Court of Appeals found that the fees and expenses associated with the decedent’s guardianship were allowable expenses under the No Fault Act. The court made it clear that expenses associated with a guardianship or a conservatorship could be allowable expenses under the No Fault Act. Many cases that came after Heinz continued to find that guardianship and conservatorship expenses fell into the “allowable expense” definition. See Houghton v. Automobile Club Ins. Assn., unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, decided Aug 1, 2000 (Docket No. 212961) and In re Estate of LeBoeuf, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, decided October 27, 2009 (Docket No. 286499). Moreover, the courts have found legal services related to an injured person’s care (In re Geror, 286 Mich. App 132, 134; 779 NW2d 316 (2009)) and those incurred in representing a guardian to be compensable.

In In Re Carroll (May v ACIA), 292 Mich. App 395; 807 NW2d 70 (2011), vacated, 493 Mich. 899; 822 NW2d 790 (2012), the Michigan Court of Appeals determined that the conservator expenses at issue were “allowable” under the No Fault Act. May v ACIA was subsequently remanded by the Michigan Supreme Court but the Court of Appeals made various determinations that are still valuable. First, the court made it clear that conservator expenses (just like guardianship expenses in Heinz) were compensable under no-fault law. Secondly, and more particularly, the court made it clear that such conservator expenses are covered by §3107(1)(a) as “care,” and not “ordinary services” under §3107(1)(c) as replacement services.

On April 2, 2013, the Michigan Court of Appeals released for publication its opinion on remand in the Carroll matter. The Carroll court found that many of Carroll’s financial management needs were extraordinary and peculiar to Carroll’s status as an injured person. In re Carroll, 300 Mich. App. 152, 174; 832 NW2d 276 (2013)(citations omitted). Because those needs are beyond those which would be ordinarily performed by a member of the household, the court found them to be compensable under MCL 500.3107(1)(a) as a service provided for Carroll’s care, recovery, and rehabilitation. Id . The Carroll opinion also points to management of care and treatment expenses not present prior to the injury as allowable expenses.

Carroll stands for the proposition that if a conservator is required to perform duties that extend beyond a task which an ordinary person is required to perform in their daily life, they are “allowable expenses” and “compensable under MCL 500.3107(1)(a).” After Carroll, it is clear that conservator expenses may be compensable under §3107(1)(a) based on an examination of the extent that the needs of the ward, as managed by conservator, transcend what the injured person required before their accident. Expenses of maintaining the conservatorship are unquestionably compensable. See In Re Kowalski (Darren Findling, as Conservator of Kowalski v. ACIA), unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, decided May 29, 2014 (Docket No. 314189). Guardianship expenses, per Heinz, remain compensable in their entirety as such expenses generally involve medical and care decision making due to motor vehicle accident related injuries.

In Pirgu v. United States Automobile Association, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, decided December 16, 2014 (Docket No. 314523), attorney Darren Findling represented plaintiff in her role as guardian and conservator. The Court ruled that Findling’s services rendered to plaintiff in her role as guardian and conservator are compensable. “Consequently, pursuant to the plain language of the statute, so long as the attorney’s services on behalf of a guardian or conservator meet those four requirements [set forth in MCL 500.3107(1)(a)], there is no statutory prohibition against an attorney recovering fees for representing a guardian or conservator under MCL 500.3107(1)(a).”

By consulting The Probate Pro, you can ensure your rights relative to Michigan’s No Fault Act and the payment of guardian and conservator expenses are protected.

Call The Probate Pro: (248) 399-3300 – toll free: (877-YOUR FIRM)

E-Mail:  Darren@TheProbatePro.com