Whiting v. Whiting

Whiting v. Whiting, 160 So.3d 921 (Fla. 3d DCA 2015)

In this guardianship, the guardianship court entered into an order appointing a guardian for an alleged incapacitated person based upon a Stipulation for Limited Guardianship entered into by the parties.  That Order restricted the ward's ability to manage her personal financial affairs beyond a $1,500 limit for any single transaction and also limited her ability to give gifts to $1,500 per person per year.  Following the entry of the Order, the Ward amended her estate plan to leave all of her assets to one of her sons, leaving out her other two sons who had previously been included as equal beneficiaries.  

Following the Ward's death, one of the excluded sons sought to set aside the trust amendment based upon the plain language of the Order.  The trial court concluded that the Order was clear and unambiguous, refused to consider parol evidence, and construed the provisions limiting the Ward's ability to make gifts or enter into financial transactions as an unambiguous restriction on her ability to alter her trust.

The Court disagreed and found that the Order contained ambiguities which presented genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment.  The Order was not clear whether it was a voluntary or involuntary guardianship, since the court did not affirmative find the ward mentally competent and include a physician's certificate attesting to same, as is required for a voluntary guardianship, nor did it adjudicate the ward to be incapacitated, as is required for an involuntary guardianship.  The Order also did not clearly address whether the Ward had the ability to amend her trust.  

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