Fee Waiver: Probate Guardianship and Conservatorship

In Probate guardianship and conservatorship cases, you will have to pay a fee to file documents with the court. Click here for the Superior Court of California Statewide Civil Court Fee Schedule.  Also, local courts have their fee schedules posted on their websites.

In Probate guardianship and conservatorship cases, the petitioner can ask the court to waive fees and costs, and the court will look at the proposed ward’s or the proposed conservatee’s income and ability to pay. This means that if you are the petitioner seeking a guardianship over a minor, the court will look at the minor’s ability to pay for the fees and costs of the process in determining whether to grant the fee waiver.  In a conservatorship case, the court will evaluate the eligibility of the incapacitated adult.

In addition, if you are already a guardian or conservator and the ward or conservatee is involved in a civil case, you can request a fee waiver if the ward or conservatee is low-income or unable to afford the filing fees of a civil case. 

Although the court will not consider the petitioner’s income in determining whether to grant the fee waiver, the petitioner, as the guardian, conservator, or representative of the ward or conservatee, is responsible for filling out the fee waiver application and providing information about the proposed ward’s or proposed conservatee’s financial situation.

This section gives you more information about asking the superior court for a fee waiver in a guardianship or conservatorship case or in a civil case when you are representing the interests of a ward or conservatee. Because this process applies in a variety of situations involving proposed wards, proposed conservatees and current wards and conservatees, we will refer to all as “ward/conservatee” throughout this section.

Asking for a fee waiver

If the ward/conservatee is low-income or cannot afford the fees, you can ask for a fee waiver.
There are 3 ways to qualify for a fee waiver:

  • If the ward/conservatee receives one of the following public benefits: Medi-Cal, Food Stamps (CalFresh), Cal-Works, General Assistance/General Relief, SSI, SSP, Tribal TANF, IHHS or CAPI;
  • If the ward/conservatee’s income, before taxes, is less than the amounts listed on Form FW-001-GC in item 8b; OR
  • If the court finds that the ward/conservatee does not have enough income to pay for both the household's basic needs AND the court fees.

To ask for a fee waiver:

  1. Read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-001-INFO). (Español)
  2. Fill out the Request to Waive Court Fees (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-001-GC).
  3. Sign your request for a fee waiver under penalty of perjury. This tells the judge you understand that you must tell the truth, and that your answers must be accurate and complete.
  4. Make 2 copies of your completed Form FW-001-GC.
  5. Turn in your fee waiver forms to the clerk. The clerk will tell you how long it will take to process your request for fee waiver.

If you already have an Order on Court Fee Waiver (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-003-GC) or an Order on Court Fee Waiver After Hearing (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-008-GC), but now have additional fees that are not included in the order:

  1. Read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-001-INFO). (Español)
  2. Fill out a Request to Waive Additional Court Fees (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-002-GC), and the top of a blank Order on Court Fee Waiver (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-003-GC).  
  3. Make 1 copy of your forms.
  4. Turn in your forms to the clerk. The clerk will tell you how long it will take to process your application for fee waiver.
  5. The rest of the process is the same as with your original fee waiver.

Remember: You must sign the request for a fee waiver under penalty of perjury. This tells the judge you understand that you must tell the truth, and that your answers must be accurate and complete.

Fee waivers expire 60 days after the case is finished, either by a judgment, a dismissal, or in some other way. They can also end if the court finds that the ward/conservatee is no longer eligible for the fee waiver.

If your fee waiver request is granted

If you file a Request to Waive Court Fees (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-001-GC) and the request is granted, you will not have to pay fees for:

  • Filing papers in superior court (except for appeals in cases worth over $25,000);
  • Making and certifying copies;
  • Having the sheriff give notice;
  • Getting a court-appointed interpreter in small claims court;
  • Having a court hearing by telephone;
  • Giving notice and certificates;
  • Sending papers to another court department;
  • Having a court reporter (these daily fees are waived for the first 60 days following the grant of the fee waiver);  
  • Preparing, copying, and certifying a clerk’s transcript on appeal and transmitting it to the appellate court and the party; or
  • Court investigations under Probate Code section 1513, 1826, or 1851.

If you file a Request to Waive Additional Court Fees (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-002-GC) and the court grants the request, you will not have to pay fees for services the court determines to be necessary for the case. The fees that are waived will be checked off on Form FW-003-GC or Form FW-008-GC. These may include 1 or more of the following:

  • Jury fees and expenses;
  • Fees for court-appointed experts;
  • Fees for a police officer to testify in court;
  • Court-appointed interpreter fees for a witness; or 
  • Other fees (read Form FW-001-INFO to see examples of the fees you can ask the court to waive). (Español)

Important: Even if the fees are waived at first, there are some cases in which you may have to pay them back later. Click for information on the repayment of waived fees.

If your fee waiver request is denied

If your request is denied without a hearing
Your fee waiver application may be denied without a hearing for 1 of 2 reasons:

  • It is incomplete; or 
  • From your application, the court decided you are not eligible for the fee waiver.

The judge will check the reason for denying your request on page 2 of Form FW-003-GC.
If your fee waiver is denied without a hearing, you have 10 days from the date in the Clerk's Certificate of Service (at the bottom of page 3 of Form FW-003-GC or attached to that form) to:

  1. Pay your fees;
  2. File a new request if the court found that your request was incomplete; OR
  3. Ask for a hearing to show the court more information.

Read item 6b on Form FW-003-GC carefully to find out what you need to do.

If you do not do 1 of these 3 things, the court will cancel the papers you filed with your fee waiver request and you can miss important deadlines or have to start your case all over.

To ask for a court hearing to bring more information after your fee waiver request is denied:

  1. Fill out a Request for Hearing About Court Fee Waiver Order (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-006-GC) and the top of Notice on Hearing about Court Fees (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-007-GC).  
  2. Make 1 copy of each form and turn them in to the clerk with the originals.
  3. The court will send you a completed Form FW-007-GC, telling you when the court date is for your fee waiver hearing.

If you missed the deadline and filed your request for a hearing more than 10 days after your fee waiver application was denied, the court will deny your hearing request and say so on Form FW-007-GC. If there is another reason why the court denies your hearing request, the court will write it in item 7c.

If the court asks for more information
If the court wants more information to make a decision on your fee waiver, the court will set up a hearing date for you. The information on the hearing will be on page 2 of Form FW-003-GC, under item 6c.

Make sure you go to that hearing. Bring with you any documents that the court tells you to bring. The court will tell you what documents it wants you to bring right above the hearing date information.

If you do not go to this court hearing, your fee waiver application will be denied and you will have to pay your fees in 10 days.

If your request is denied after a hearing
If the court denies your fee waiver request after a hearing, your options depend on what the court orders. First, look at pages 2-3 of the Order on Court Fee Waiver After Hearing (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-008-GC) to see what the court ordered.

  • If the court grants you a partial waiver of your fees and costs, you will still have to pay some of the fees, but not all. The court will tell what part of the fees are waived on page 3 of Form FW-008-GC, item 7c. You must pay any other fees you owe within 10 days after the date in the Clerk's Certificate of Service (at the bottom of the form or attached to it). If you do not, the court will cancel the papers you filed.
  • If the court denies your request for a waiver, but allows you to pay some court fees and costs over time, the court will check items 7b(1) and 7b(2) on page 2 of Form FW-008-GC. On the form in these items, the court will tell you when you must start making the partial payments and how much you must pay each month. If you do not make those payments, or pay for any other fees and costs as they come due, the court may cancel the papers you filed.
  • If the court denies your request for a waiver and orders you to pay in full immediately, the court will check item 7b(1) on page 2 of Form FW-008-GC. You must pay your court fees within 10 days after the date in the Clerk’s Certificate of Service (at the bottom of the form or attached to it). If you do not pay, the court will cancel the papers you filed.

Remember: You must act quickly after you get that order if you want your case to move forward.

After Getting the Fee Waiver

Once a fee waiver is granted, as long as the ward/conservatee’s financial situation remains the same, you do not have to do anything related to the fees. BUT if the ward/conservatee’s finances improve or if the ward/conservatee can now afford to pay the court fees and costs, you have to tell the court within 5 days. Fill out a Notice to Court of Improved Financial Situation or Settlement (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-010-GC) and file it with the clerk. 

Also, you may get a Notice to Appear for Reconsideration of Fee Waiver (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-011-GC). This is a notice from the court to go to a hearing to reconsider the fee waiver. The court sends this form if it thinks the ward/conservatee’s financial situation may have changed. Make sure you go to this court date, or the fee waiver may be canceled.

It is possible that the ward/conservatee may have to pay the fees that were waived in some cases. Click for information about the repayment of waived fees.

Fee waivers expire 60 days after the court issues a judgment or dismissal or finishes the case in some other way.

Waiving additional fees
If you are facing additional court fees that were not waived in your original order, you can request a waiver for these additional fees:

  1. Read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-001-INFO). (Español)
  2. Fill out a Request to Waive Additional Court Fees (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-002-GC) and the top of the Order on Court Fee Waiver (Ward or Conservatee) (Form FW-003-GC).  
  3. Make 1 copy of your forms.
  4. Turn in your forms to the clerk. The clerk will tell you how long it will take to process your application for fee waiver.
  5. The rest of the process is the same as with your original fee waiver.

Remember: You must sign your request for a fee waiver under penalty of perjury. This tells the judge you understand that you must tell the truth, and that your answers must be accurate and complete.

Information on Repayment of Waived Fees

  • In some cases, even if the fees are waived, the estate of a ward/conservatee may have to pay them back later. In some civil cases, a ward/conservatee may even have to pay the other side's waived fees.If the ward/conservatee's financial circumstances improve during the case, the court may order the ward/conservatee to pay back any fees that were waived after eligibility ended.
  • If the court asks you to provide proof for the information you wrote on the fee waiver request and you do not provide that proof, the court will cancel the fee waiver and the ward/conservatee will have to pay back any fees and costs that were waived.
  • If the ward/conservatee wins a civil or small claims case, usually the court orders the other side to pay the fees. The court will not enter a satisfaction of judgment until those fees and costs are paid.
  • If the ward/conservatee loses a civil or small claims case and the court orders the ward/conservatee to pay the other side’s fees, the ward/conservatee will have to pay those fees even if the other side had a fee waiver and did not actually pay the court fees.  The judgment against the ward/conservatee in the case will not be satisfied (considered paid in full) until the ward/conservatee pays back the waived fees of the other side.
  • If the ward/conservatee has a civil case and settles with the other side for $10,000 or more, the ward/conservatee will have to pay any waived fees. The court will put a lien on the settlement to pay these fees. And the court will not dismiss the case until the fees have been paid.
  • If the ward/conservatee obtains a judgment or child/spousal/partner/family support order in a family law case, the court may order the ward/conservatee to pay all or part of their waived fees or the other person’s waived fees. If this happens, you have the right to ask for a court hearing to request that the court set aside (cancel) the order to pay the waived court fees and costs.

For more informationabout paying back waived fees, read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-001-INFO). (Español)

Laws and rules of court about fee waivers

The California laws about fee waivers are in the Government Code, sections 68630 through 68641.

The California Rules of Court also deal with fee waivers. For:

Fee Waiver Forms

You may not need all of these forms. Or you may need more forms. If you are not sure which forms to use, talk to a lawyer. Or get help from your court. Your court's self-help center, family law facilitator, and small claims legal advisor may be able to provide you more help with your fee waiver.

NOTE: All California courts use the same basic set of forms. But some courts have local forms, too. To see if you will need any local forms, contact your court clerk or check your court's website. The forms may be posted on their site. If not, the site will list the address and phone number of your local courthouse.

Forms to ask for a fee waiver

To download a form (in PDF format), click on the form number in the table below.

Form Name Form Number
Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs
Spanish Version
FW-001-INFO
FW-001-INFO S
Request to Waive Court Fees (Ward or Conservatee) FW-001-GC
Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court) (Ward or Conservatee) FW-003-GC

Forms you may need later on in your case

Form Name Form Number
Request to Waive Additional Court Fees (Superior Court) (Ward or Conservatee)

FW-002-GC

Request for Hearing About Court Fee Waiver Order (Superior Court) (Ward or Conservatee)

FW-006-GC

Notice on Hearing About Court Fees (Ward or Conservatee)

FW-007-GC

Order on Court Fee Waiver After Hearing (Superior Court) (Ward or Conservatee)

FW-008-GC

Notice to Court of Improved Financial Situation or Settlement (Ward or Conservatee)

FW-010-GC

Order on Court Fee Waiver After Reconsideration Hearing (Superior Court) (Ward or Conservatee)

FW-012-GC

Note: Fee waiver forms are for the court only, and some of them are confidential (it should say on the form itself). Do not have them served on other parties or persons involved in the case.

© 2018 Judicial Council of California