Articles & Blog

Petition for Accounting and Surcharge

In the case of Guardo vs. Buzzuro, 7 Fiduc. Rep. 3rd page 14-19 (O.C. Monroe Co.2016), the Court was presented with a Petition to Compel an Accounting and Declaratory Relief by the Petitioner against Respondent/guardian. Respondent lived with her Aunt for 4 years from September 2010 through March 2014, and handled many of her finances. Her Aunt died in July 2014. Petitioner provided an accounting provided by the estate showing unaccounted funds and missing documents. Petitioner alleged that Respondent mismanaged decedent’s money while living with decedent for approximately 4 years. Respondent responded that she did not mismanage or convert funds and she did not know she was to keep extensive records.

The Court stated that the statute provides that the agent shall file an account whenever directed to do so by the court. 20 PS 5610. The Court stated that when money is unaccounted for in an estate the court could order the funds be repaid by the fiduciary in the form of a surcharge, and the burden to prove the wrongdoing is on the party who seeks the wrongdoing, and when sufficient discrepancy appears in the record then the burden shifts to the guardian or executor. The Court stated that a fiduciary acting under a power of attorney or as a guardian or caregiver is no different than an executor in such circumstances.

During a hearing the Responded was resolute in her position that written records were unnecessary because she handled many matters in cash and did her best to care for decedent. Even though the Respondent testified that records were not kept because she had no formal training or accounting skills, “the records are so bare that they do not meet the minimum of common skill or prudence.”

The Court stated that a surcharge against a fiduciary can only be initiated by an accounting by the fiduciary in question (which is the normal pattern), and the opposing party can file objections, and the court can then determine the amount of the surcharge, if any. And of course a party can appeal. In re Smith, 2006 Pa. Super.5; In re Estate of Bechtel, 92 A. 833 (2014); In re Novosielski, 605, Pa. 508, 992 A.2d 89 (2010).

The Court concluded that evidence was produced that warrants the filing of a formal accounting while the respondent was acting as the fiduciary, and that although the respondent may not be able to do so, the respondent should be given the opportunity to make a full accounting. Therefore, the Court granted the Petition to Compel the Accounting and deferred the request for Declaratory Relief until the accounting issue is resolved.

Leave a Reply