Before her husband’s death, the Guglielmellis’ daughter Donna lived with their parents and, after Mr. Guglielmelli’s death, she continued to reside with her mother. Mr. Guglielmelli had always handled the couple’s finances, and after his death Donna assumed that role, under a power of attorney for her mother. Donna also served as executor of her father’s estate, after her mother and sister Denise renounced.

Donna and her mother became estranged from Denise in 2008, and Mrs. Guglielmelli executed a will leaving her entire estate, including her home in Cherry Hill, to Donna. She later sold that home and moved with Donna to a new home in Runnemede, which she and Donna purchased together, as joint tenants.

In 2009, Mrs. Guglielmelli and Donna reconciled with Denise. In 2010, Mrs. Guglielmelli executed a new will, again leaving her home to Donna but dividing her remaining assets between Donna and Denise.

In late 2014, Donna became unable to care for her 88-year old mother at home, and in early 2015 she arranged for her mother’s move to an assisted living facility. She also engaged an attorney for the purpose of Medicaid planning and, in February, Mrs. Guglielmelli executed a deed transferring her interest in the home to Donna.

In March 2015, Mrs. Guglielmelli had become unhappy at the facility, and Denise moved her mother into her own home, without advising Donna. Denise also arranged for her mother to revoke the power of attorney in favor of Donna, and execute a new one in favor of Denise. With the assistance of Denise, Mrs. Guglielmelli sued Donna, demanding an accounting of Donna’s actions as Mr. Guglielmelli’s executor and as Mrs. Guglielmelli’s agent.

Donna produced the required accountings, to which exceptions were filed. Following a four-day hearing, the Probate Part judge dismissed the complaint. The judge found that the transfer of Mrs. Guglielmelli’s interest in the home to Donna was done for Medicaid planning purposes and was appropriate, given that it was consistent with her estate plan and the fact that it was Donna’s primary residence. The judge also awarded fees to Donna for the time period following depositions, because at that point, there was enough information, including Mrs. Guglielmelli’s poor recollection, to conclude that the litigation should be terminated.

On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of the litigation. However, it reversed the fee award, concluding that “there is no provision in our statutes, rules or case law for the award of fees in an accounting action,” and noting that there had been no request for fees based on the Frivolous Litigation Statute.

A copy of Estate of Guglielmelli can be found here – Estate of Guglielmelli

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NJ Medicaid and Public Benefits Planning