Pierre v. Brown

Pierre v. Brown, 169 So.3d 262 (Fla. 3d DCA 2015), 2015 WL 4111330

In this guardianship fee dispute, the Court affirmed a harsh result for a successor guardian who incurred fees in cleaning up a mess created by the initial guardian.

The initial guardian of the ward incurred over $200,000 in fees.  That prior guardian secured assets of the ward, repaired a residence the ward inherited from his mother, reduced the mother's funeral bill and recovered compensation paid to a disbarred attorney.  These actions resulted in a deposit of $150,000 into a trust for the ward, on top of the ward's $78.40/month disability income and $1,400/month rental income from the real property.  Virtually all of the wards assets were paid out as fees to the initial guardian.

Once the successor guardian was appointed, he discovered that no tax returns had been filed for the ward since 2004, and the income tax obligations of the mother's estate and real estate taxes were never paid.  The successor guardian hired an accounting firm to prepare the ward's delinquent tax returns, hoping to use losses from prior years to set off the income tax, and resulted in savings to the ward.  He then twice sought his fees and costs incurred, as well as the fees of the accounting firm.  The trial court entered orders significantly reducing the fees sought by the successor guardian.

The Court upheld the trial court's orders, stating that it was unable to find that the trial court abused its discretion in determining the award of fees and costs to the successor guardian.  The Court was not bothered by the fact that the orders contained findings of facts not supported by the record, since it felt that the reduced fees were appropriate given the small size of the estate, nor was it bothered by the fact that the successor guardian was being penalized by the reduced status of the estate which he was in no way responsible for.  

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