GEORGES M. DELBROUCK, Appellant,
MARIA EBERLING as Personal Representative of the Estate of LEON G. DELBROUCK, AIME GUY DEBROUCK and CLAUDE DELBROUCK, Appellees.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,
Broward County; Marc H. Gold, Judge; L.T. Case Nos.
PRC-14-000186 and PRC-14-002186.
C. Valentine of the Law Office of Mosier Valentine, P.A.,
Fort Lauderdale, for appellant.
A. Weiss of Selzer & Weiss, Fort Lauderdale, for Appellee
G. Jordan of John G. Jordan, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for
Appellee Claude Delbrouck.
Cynamon, Abby, Associate Judge.
Delbrouck appeals from an order granting summary judgment in
a probate case. Appellant, a beneficiary under the subject
will, argues that he is an interested person with standing to
contest the will and thus, it was error for the trial court
to grant summary judgment where he pleaded undue influence
and lack of testamentary capacity. We agree and reverse. We
find it unnecessary to address the remaining arguments on
Delbrouck died January 1, 2014, and was survived by his three
sons-appellant, Aime Guy Delbrouck, and Claude Delbrouck.
About three weeks after the decedent's death, the probate
court entered an order admitting his June 26, 2013 will to
probate. The order noted that the decedent's will
appointed Maria Eberling-Aime's ex-girlfriend-as the
personal representative. Aime was appointed as the substitute
personal representative. The will divided the decedent's
assets equally among his three sons, who would have been the
decedent's heirs at law had there been no will.
2014, appellant petitioned for revocation of probate.
Appellant eventually filed a second amended petition,
alleging that the will was procured by undue influence and
overreaching on the part of Aime and the personal
representative, the decedent lacked capacity, and the
personal representative failed to notify appellant of the
administration of the estate because the notice was mailed to
the wrong address. The petition further alleged that the
personal representative gave preference to Aime in the
administration of the Estate. Appellant sought, inter
alia, revocation of probate and a vacation of the
appointment of the personal representative.
responding to appellant's petition, the personal
representative served a motion for summary judgment in
February 2016, alleging that even if there had been undue
influence or if the will had been executed when the decedent
lacked testamentary capacity, appellant would not receive any
benefits by successfully revoking probate. The personal
representative filed affidavits from Aime and Claude, who
each attested that they would nominate the same personal
representative and reject appellant's attempt to seek an
filed two memoranda of law in opposition to the motion for
summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that there
was undue influence, the decedent lacked testamentary
capacity, and the motion erroneously relied on Newman v.
Newman, 766 So.2d 1091 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000). Appellant
further alleged that the personal representative allowed Aime
access to the estate's real property and assets to the
exclusion of the other beneficiaries. Specifically, appellant
claimed the personal representative demanded that he vacate
real property owned by the estate but did not make the same
demand of Aime, who occupied a warehouse property owned by
the estate, or of Claude, who occupied a condominium owned by
the estate. Moreover, appellant added that the personal
representative and Aime removed personal property from the
decedent's former residence, and destroyed or disposed of
it, without providing an accounting. Appellant submitted
various exhibits in opposition to the summary judgment
motion, including deposition testimony by Aime, by the
personal representative, and by the attorney who drafted the
2016, the probate court conducted a hearing on the motion for
summary judgment. The personal representative argued that
appellant was in a no-win situation because: (1) appellant
did not allege that there was a prior will that would give
him more than what he received under the disputed will; (2)
even if the will was not probated, appellant would have been
entitled to the same one-third share of the estate through
intestate succession; and (3) the personal representative
would remain unchanged based on the affidavits from
appellant's two brothers. Appellant acquiesced that both
the will and intestate succession would give him the same
one-third distribution of the decedent's estate but
argued still for revocation of the will based on its alleged
probate judge initially suggested deferring ruling on the
motion for summary judgment until an evidentiary hearing was
held on an outstanding motion to remove the personal
representative and on another motion to dismiss that motion
to remove the personal representative. However, the parties
disputed that course of action, and after more argument and a
recess, the probate judge made the following statement on the
Okay. I've been going through this six different ways and
I brought it up and it appears that there is no question in
my mind as to the issue of whether we go forward on the will
or we go intestate. The consequences of that decision are
meaningless. There is nothing. And given the reliance on
Newman, I just want to quote one sentence and I
think I read this two or three times, but let me just read it
again. I think this is at page three. "An interested
person is defined as any ...