Because of a lingering dispute over the cost of implementing the new D.C. guardianship law, officials responsible for the program told a D.C. Council committee yesterday that they have omitted it from their proposed budget.

The disclosure immediately drew a protest from some supporters of the law, who said they fear this could lead to a delay in its implementation. The law, which greatly expands the legal protections for the subjects of guardianship proceedings in the District, is scheduled to take effect Oct. 1.

"This city council must confront its obligation to decide the community's priorities and budget for them," said Joanne Lynn, a Washington geriatric specialist who deals regularly with guardianship proceedings.

Chief Judge Fred B. Ugast of the D.C. Superior Court told the council's Judiciary Committee that it would be "inappropriate" to submit an official request for funding the guardianship law at this time.

" . . . it is still not possible to determine, with any specificity, the number of personnel and the required funding of the {Guardianship} Act, as it now stands," Ugast said.

Lawyer Michael R. Schuster, who helped write the law, said it will help move the District "from the 1800s into the 21st century."

Under the new law, he said, it will no longer be possible for a D.C. court to declare a person incompetent on the basis of age. Instead, the new law will require evidence that the person is unable to think rationally, he said.

Schuster said the new law also will allow the court to establish a limited guardianship to help a person with a specific need.

"If you need someone to help you with a real estate transaction, under the current law you would have to have a conservator appointed for all your financial affairs," Schuster said, "but under the new law you could have someone appointed to handle only that real estate transaction."

Ugast said he has provided a letter to Mayor Marion Barry explaining the court's concern about the funding and outlining estimates of the cost of implementing the guardianship law.

The law could carry an annual cost of as little as $4.7 million, according to a Superior Court study. But the Department of Human Services, in its review, said it might cost as much as $25.5 million a year.

The variation reflects a difference in the annual number of persons who would be affected by the new law, which provides vastly expanded legal protections for the subjects of guardianship cases. The court study estimated that about 435 persons would be affected by the law, compared with the Human Services Department's projection of 3,450 persons.

"To further complicate the matter, it is our understanding that additional amendment of the act is under active consideration," Ugast said.

In the budget that Ugast presented to the committee, he asked for $55 million for the Superior Court for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, an increase of $5.4 million and 36 positions over the current year.