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In re Zwerdling

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

August 30, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF BLANCHE ZWERDLING.

Submitted August 27, 2013

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Passaic County, Docket No. P-197937.

Jeffrey Samel & Partners, attorneys for appellant Blanche Zwerdling (Gary R. Matano, on the brief).

Fiorello, Puccio & Fiorello, LLC, attorneys for respondent Linda Couso Puccio, Court-appointed counsel for Blanche Zwerdling (Linda Couso Puccio, on the brief).

Hunziker, Jones & Sweeney, P.A., attorneys for respondent Susan E. Champion, former Co-Guardian of Blanche Zwerdling (Christopher E. Miller, on the brief.

Masessa & Cluff, attorneys for respondent Tania M. Nemeth, Guardian Ad Litem for Blanche Zwerdling (Tania M. Nemeth, on the brief).

Before Judges Harris and Fasciale.

PER CURIAM

These back-to-back appeals stem from a long-running probate dispute arising in the Passaic vicinage. We consolidate the appeals for purposes of this opinion and affirm both matters.

I.

On November 5, 2009, a judgment adjudicating the incapacity of nonagenarian Blanche Zwerdling was entered, which called for the appointment of Susan E. Champion, Esq. and Sandra Scala (Zwerdling's niece) to be "limited co-guardians of the person and property of Blanche Zwerdling." Among its several provisions, the judgment declared, "the limited co-guardians shall handle and manage Blanche Zwerdling's legal matters and the execution of legal documents; the limited co-guardians shall consult with Blanche Zwerdling on all legal matters, but the decision of the limited co-guardians shall prevail."

On March 16, 2010, the court entered an "Order Directing Co-Guardians, " which declared that in light of the prior judgment of incapacitation, Zwerdling "does not have the capacity to retain" an attorney to represent her. However, the order further provided that "[e]ither Co-Guardian has the option to retain . . . any . . . counsel of choice" on behalf of Zwerdling.

On February 28, 2011, Scala and Zwerdling entered into a letter agreement with the law office of Jeffrey Samel & Partners, [1] which served as a fee arrangement (at $175 per hour) for legal representation "to fully protect Blanche Zwerdling's rights, protect her income and to preserve her assets." The agreement provided that it ...


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