Celebrity Guardianship: Zsa Zsa Gabor

The battle over who should be appointed as the guardian of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor has been settled for the time being. Zsa Zsa’s daughter from her prior marriage to hotel magnate, Conrad Hilton, had previously opposed the appointment of Zsa Zsa’s current (and ninth) husband as her mother’s guardian. However, the two sides have agreed that Zsa Zsa’s husband should serve as the temporary guardian responsible for making her medical decisions, while independent attorneys would serve as the temporary guardians responsible for overseeing her finances.

Often times, the drama associated with a contested guardianship matter is not over the determination that a loved one is in the need for the appointment of a guardian, but rather whom should be appointed as the guardian. While the Texas Probate Code provides that certain individuals (i.e. a spouse) are entitled to be appointed as the guardian in preference to any other person (i.e. an adult child from a prior marriage), the law also provides that a person with preference must not be “disqualified.” A Texas court must find a person disqualified from serving as guardian if that person is, among other reasons, notoriously bad, a party to a lawsuit concerning the welfare of the proposed ward, indebted to the proposed ward, or found unsuitable by the court. Accordingly, if the fight over Zsa Zsa’s guardianship were to happen in Texas, her husband may have priority to serve as her guardian, but he could be disqualified from serving.

Attorneys who specialize in guardianship law are equipped to understand the dichotomy of these two provisions. Ford + Mathiason LLP routinely assists clients on both sides of the aisle – family members that are concerned an unsuitable person is attempting to be appointed as a loved one’s guardian and individuals who need help in defending their right to be appointed as the guardian.

 

Stopping Frivolous appeals

The story goes like this:  you find yourself mired in a long and expensive probate litigation case.  The other side has no case whatsoever, but they have assured you that even if they lose they will be happy dragging this out as long as it takes.  After years of legal battles, your day in court comes and you win.  Great, right?  Everyone goes home and your troubles are finally behind you.

But wait…

At the last second, despite the fact that the opposing side was hammered in trial court, the other side files a notice of appeal.  This can’t go on forever right?  Surely there must be something you can to do prevent someone from simply litigating out of spite, right?

The answer is yes, there is something you can do.

Now from the outset I should note that appellate review is the right of every Texan and is one of the foundations upon which our legal system is built.  That being said, there comes a time where a litigant is merely dragging a case on for no reason other than spite, and in those circumstances, help is available.

Appellate courts have the authority to assess damages for frivolous appeals.  The main question is whether the appellant had reasonable grounds to believe that the judgment could and should be reversed.  The Courts consider such factors as the reporter’s record (or lack thereof), the quality of the brief and if it contains actual arguable issues, and failures to meet deadlines or show up for oral argument.

If the Appellate Court looks at a case, and it is clear that the party had no reasonable expectation of reversal, that party will be subject to penalties.  Courts also look to legal precedent to determine if the Appellant raised any questions that were contrary to well-established principles of law.  If a party ignores clear legal precedent, and doesn’t make a legitimate argument for a change in the law, that party is again subject to penalties.  Additionally, a party can be subject to penalties if it refuses to accept the Court’s verdict and relitigates on that basis alone.

So you see, there are ways to deal with unreasonable appeals.  Sanctions can and should be sought in cases of frivolous appeals.  Call us today if you find yourself dealing with such a matter.  713-260-3926