Powel v. Roper, 245 S.W.3d 280 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008)

Factual Background:

Conservator of children’s estates filed two annual settlements for the children’s estate.  The Circuit Court disapproved the annual settlements because the conservator failed to properly provide receipts for the all of the expenditures made on behalf of the children.  There was no question that the expenditures were made on behalf of the children, but the conservator was able to provide “vouchers” evidencing the expenditures for a small portion of the total provided in the settlement for each child.  The court refused the settlements and held the conservator personally liable for the expenditures made from the children’s estate which were not supported by receipts.

On Appeal:

A conservator will not be held to a standard of strict liability with regard to good faith expenditures he or she makes.  A conservator may, if he chooses, make expenditures from the estate under his control for the benefit of the ward without prior court approval.  If the conservator chooses not to obtain prior court approval he runs the risk of the court disallowing those expenditures and being held personally liable.  While a conservator is required to provide “vouchers” for all expenditures on behalf of the ward exceeding $75, a good faith failure to obtain receipts for such expenditures does not, in-and-of-itself, provide grounds for disallowance of the expenditures during settlement.  A conservator can only be found personally liable for failing to provide vouchers for such expenditures when the expenditures are improper, or when he has failed to utilize the degree of skill and prudence of an ordinary prudent man.


While Section 473.543 requires that “each expenditure of more than seventy-five dollars for which a [conservator] claims credit in any settlement shall be supported by vouchers executed by the person to whom the disbursement was made,” several courts have refused to hold guardians or conservators personally liable for expenditures or obligations where they were not at fault.  The court refused to hold conservators to a standard of strict liability when attempting in good faith to administer a wards estate.  Section 475.130.1 simply requires that the conservator use the degree of care, skill and prudence which an ordinarily prudent man uses in managing the property of, and conducting transactions on behalf of, others.  Further, 475.132.2 imposes liability on a conservator “only if he is personally at fault.”  In order to find a conservator individually liable, the court requires some fault or negligence on the part of the conservator before liability will be imposed.  Here, there is no question that the expenditures made by the conservator were made on behalf of the minor children.  The only wrongful conduct by the conservator was that he failed to properly maintain receipts for all the expenditures for which he was seeking settlement.  While the court did not condone this failure to comply with the statute requiring such receipts to be provided, the court refused to hold the conservator personally liable for what would otherwise be proper expenditures for a good faith failure to comply with the statute.