In re Estate of Paula X. Assimakopoulos, deceased; and In re Trust Administration of the Paula X. Assimakopoulos Trust U/T/A 4/15/2008.
NICOLLE ASSIMAKOPOULOS-PANUTHOS, individually and as personal representative of the estate and as cotrustee of the trust; GARY M., FERNALD, as curator of the estate; ALEXANDER P. ALEXANDER; and PLATO J. ALEXANDER, Appellees. EVA LANA, Appellant,
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Pinellas County; Jack St. Arnold,
Pashoukos Wasylik of DPW Legal, Tampa, for Appellant.
J. Felos of Felos & Felos, Dunedin, for Appellees
Alexander P. Alexander and Plato J. Alexander.
Jeffrey A. Eisel and Hamden H. Baskin, III, of Baskin Fleece,
Clearwater, for Appellee Nicolle Assimakopoulos-Panuthos.
appearance for Gary M. Fernald.
VILLANTI, Chief Judge.
probate proceeding, Eva Lana appeals the probate court's
order awarding sanctions against her pursuant to section
57.105, Florida Statutes (2015), and two other judgments
against her awarding expert witness fees to another
party's attorney and to the curator of the estate. While
Lana challenges the sanctions judgment on numerous grounds,
we find merit only in her contention that that judgment
improperly includes an award of expert witness fees. We also
find merit in her contention that the expert witness fees
awarded to the personal representative's attorney, Hamden
Baskin, and to the court-appointed curator of the estate,
Gary Fernald, were awarded in violation of due process. We
therefore reverse the sanctions judgment in part and the
judgments in favor of Baskin and Fernald in total. In all
other respects, we affirm.
recitation of the long, contentious, and convoluted history
of this case is unnecessary to our resolution of this case,
some background is necessary to understand our ruling. The
death of Paula X. Assimakopoulos ignited numerous disputes
between her two daughters, Lana and Nicolle
Assimakopoulos-Panuthos, and their uncle and cousin,
Alexander P. Alexander and Plato J. Alexander. The first
dispute centered on where Assimakopoulos's estate would
be probated. Ultimately, after some not insignificant
wrangling, Lana agreed that the Florida courts had
jurisdiction to probate the estate. Probate was opened in
Pinellas County, Lana and Panuthos were appointed as
co-personal representatives, and probate proceedings began.
Later, after proceedings became bogged down due to
disagreements between the co-personal representatives, Lana
was removed as a co-personal representative, although she
remained active in the case as a beneficiary.
family disputes continued three years after the estate was
opened, Lana filed a petition to revoke probate, alleging
that the documents initially used to establish
Assimakopoulos's domicile in Florida were incomplete and
falsely presented and that a full review of all of her
documents and affairs would show that probate jurisdiction
was properly in New York rather than Florida. In response to
this petition, the Alexanders and Panuthos filed motions to
dismiss, which were granted after an evidentiary hearing.
Hence, the petition to revoke probate was denied.
initially appealed the probate court's order denying her
petition; however, shortly after the notice of appeal was
filed in this court, Lana filed a motion asking this court to
relinquish jurisdiction so that the probate court could
entertain a motion to vacate the denial of the petition under
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540. This court granted
that motion and relinquished jurisdiction. Lana then filed
her rule 1.540 motion, and the probate court held an
evidentiary hearing on it. At the conclusion of the hearing,
the probate court denied the motion.
thereafter, the Alexanders filed a motion for sanctions in
the probate court under section 57.105(1) based on Lana's
filing of the above rule 1.540 motion, which they asserted
was not supported by either the facts or the law, and they
noticed their motion for hearing. In preparation for the
hearing on this motion, Lana subpoenaed Baskin as the
attorney for the personal representative, Fernald as the
court-appointed curator of the estate, and her own former
attorneys. In response to Lana's subpoena, Baskin filed a
notice of intent to ...