What Happens When You Refuse to Transfer Assets to a Legally Appointed Guardian in Florida?
When an adult Florida resident is incapacitated and unable to manage their own affairs, a court may need to step in and appoint a guardian. It is not uncommon in these situations for family members to litigate the question of who should be the guardian. But once the court renders judgment on the issue, all sides must comply with the guardianship orders and not try to take matters into their own hands.
Co-Guardians Sue Sibling Over Missing Bank Account Funds
A recent decision from the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal, Housman v. Housman, illustrates the kind of legal issues that can arise when family members fight over a guardianship. This case involves three adult siblings–Gary, Peggy, and Mark–over the creation of a guardianship for their mother. Peggy and Mark filed a petition in Brevard County Circuit Court to be named co-guardians. Gary then responded with a counter-petition seeking to be named guardian.
The court held a five-day bench trial and ultimately granted Peggy and Mark’s petition. Previously, Gary had overseen the mother’s finances. The judge therefore ordered Gary to transfer title to any of the mother’s assets under his control to Peggy and Mark as co-guardians. Of particular note here, there were two bank accounts owned by the mother that Gary had to transfer.
According to the Fifth District, Gary refused to comply with the order. Instead, he transferred over $170,000 from the mother’s two bank accounts to his own personal account. The court then entered a new order requiring Gary to return that money to Peggy and Mark’s attorneys, who would hold it in a trust account. Gary also refused to comply with this order.
At this point, Peggy and Mark filed an ex parte motion to freeze Gary’s assets. An ex parte motion is one that is heard and decided without the participation of the other party. In this case, the court granted the motion to freeze Gary’s assets without holding a hearing first. Gary then appealed that decision to the Fifth District.
The appellate court agreed with Gary that the lower court acted prematurely. The Fifth District explained that an order temporarily freezing someone’s freezing assets was the legal equivalent of a temporary injunction. Under Florida law, a party seeking a temporary injunction must establish four things:
- the likelihood of irreparable harm’
- the lack of an adequate remedy at law;
- a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; and
- consideration so the public interest.
Here, the judge in Brevard County failed to issue a written decision explaining how Peggy and Mark established each of these four elements. The Fifth District therefore returned the case to the lower court with instructions to make such findings. The appellate court did not express any opinion on the underlying merits of the case.
Contact a Florida Guardianship Litigation Attorney Today
If you are involved in a guardianship dispute involving a family member or loved one, it is important that you seek out competent, professional advice before taking any actions that could land you in trouble with the court. Pompano Beach guardianship litigation lawyer Mark R. Manceri can review your case and advise you of your options. Contact his office today to schedule an initial consultation.