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COA rejects former guardians’ arguments on rehearing

May 8, 2015

An elderly man’s former temporary guardians were unable to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that it erred in overturning an award to them of $15,000 after finding potential misconduct by the guardians.

The COA reversed the trial court in February because the trial court did not look at whether the fees requested by N.R.’s niece, Eva Willis, and his nephew, Charles Reagins, for the time they spent as temporary guardians were necessary. The trial court abused its discretion in awarding fees and costs out of the guardianship estate without fully considering the evidence relevant to the award, the appeals court held.

There are allegations that the two had changed the locks on N.R.’s home and had his mail forwarded to a P.O. box he did not have access to, causing him to not pay bills. This may have served as the pair’s basis for asking the court for guardianship.

The trial court granted the pair’s petition for temporary guardianship without providing notice to N.R. or to Nelva Berry, N.R.’s attorney-in-fact.

In In the Matter of the Guardianship of N.R., N.R. v. Eva Willis and Charles Reagins, Peoples Bank, SB, 45A05-1303-GU-150, Willis and Reagins argued there had never been a finding they engaged in misconduct, so there was no basis for denying them fees and costs. But the COA held this was part of the problem because the trial court did not hear any evidence on the misconduct N.R. alleged the pair committed in order to adequately make such a finding, Judge Margret Robb wrote.

“And the fact that the trial court refused to hear that evidence is the very reason we were forced to rely on the allegations of the petition in adjudicating N.R.’s appeal. We did not find that such facts were true and binding on the trial court, only that N.R. was entitled to the opportunity to prove such facts,” Robb wrote, referencing an unverified petition executed by an attorney alleging the misconduct. 

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