Waldon Opinion Summary

Waldon v. Waldon, 45 Fla. L. Weekly D1007 (Fla. 3d DCA 2020)

Factual Background

C. Waldon (“Waldon”) and his wife were declared incapacitated in 2015. A professional Guardian, Elena George (“George”), was appointed as Walden’s guardian. In October of 2015, George travelled to Georgia to bring the ward back, but he refused. The Georgia court did not recognize the Florida court order appointing George as Waldon’s guardian.

Thereafter, in 2017, George resigned and one of Waldon’s daughters, C. Alger (“Alger”), petitioned for appointment as successor guardian.

At the hearing on Alger’s appointment as Waldon’s guardian, the court heard testimony of several witnesses. Alger testified that she had business experience, had taken a guardianship course, and she was already the guardian of the mother. The trial court did not give weight to the restraining order Waldon got against Alger (in Georgia) because the proceedings were conducted in a “questionable manner” with a lack of due process. Competing petitioner, I. Howard (“Howard”), argued that Alger had a conflict of interest because she was currently foreclosing on a mortgage on a property that Howard owned, and which Waldon held a junior mortgage lien. Over Howard’s objections, the lower court entered an order appointing Alger as guardian, holding that the appointment was in Walden’s best interests and no conflict of interest existed. Waldon appealed.

Analysis

The lower court’s exercise of discretion in appointing Alger as the guardian was pursuant to section 742.312, Florida Statutes (2018).  A court may not appoint a guardian in any circumstance in which a conflict of interest is “[a] real or seeming incompatibility between one’s private interests and one’s public or fiduciary duties.”  Conflict of Interest, Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009).  If a transaction involves a conflict of interest between a guardian and a ward, the transaction is prohibited, regardless of the fairness to the ward or whether the transaction is in the best interests of the ward.  See Sun Bank & Tr. Co. v. Jones, 645 So.2d 1008, 1018 (Fla. 5th DCA 1994).  The order appointing a guardian must be consistent with the incapacitated person’s welfare and safety and must be the least restrictive appropriate alternative.  §755.2005(3), Fla. Stat. (2018).  The appellate court found that the alleged conflict raised here, i.e., Alger’s senior mortgage in property in which Waldon held an interest, predated the appointment and was later disclosed.

When the facts are viewed in favor of sustaining the appointment, the court will not disturb such findings.  See Manassa v. Manassa, 738 So,.2d 997, 998 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999).  The appellate court upheld the trial court’s finding that the Georgia restraining order was invalid.  Dade Cty. Sch. Bd. V. Radio Station WQBA, 731 So.2d 638, 644 (Fla. 1999) (if a trial court reaches the right result, but for the wrong reasons, it will be upheld if there is any basis which support it).

Holding

Since there was no disqualifying conflict of interest, Alger’s appointment as guardian was affirmed.

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