LoCascio v. Estate of LoCascio, — So.3d —-, 2011 WL 2555644 (Fla. 3d DCA June 29, 2011)

Silvia Locascio’s brutally beaten corpse was found in her home on October 30, 2001. Eventually her husband and brother-in-law were found guilty of her murder – based in large part on the testimony of the couple’s only son. Click herehere for more on the back story to this tragic case.

In this latest — and hopefully final — chapter of this very sad case, the 3d DCA reversed a probate order summarily removing the decedent’s son as PR of her estate. This court order was just as summarily reversed by the 3d DCA in the following one-paragraph opinion:

Edward J. LoCascio appeals from an order removing him as successor personal representative of his deceased mother’s estate. See LoCascio v. Sharpe, 23 So.3d 1209 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009); see also Golden & Cowan, P.A. v. In re Estate of Locascio, 41 So.3d 1113 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010). Because the “hearing” which preceded the ruling did not meet even the most rudimentary requirements of due process, including without limitation the presentation of evidence, it is reversed and the cause remanded with directions to reinstate the appellant as personal representative and for the prompt final resolution of this already over-protracted proceeding.FN1

FN1. We consider that this ruling obviates any reason for a curator or any other extraneous entity to administer the estate.

In order to understand this opinion I think you need to keep two points in mind.

First, the family tragedy at the heart of this case has been the subject of multiple criminal and probate trials plus 9 appeals as far as I can tell. By now — 10 years after Mrs. Locascio’s murder — the 3d DCA is tired of this case and wants it to go away (note the court’s gratuitous reference to “prompt final resolution of this already over-protracted proceeding” and its parting shot in FN1).

Second, the 3d DCA’s emphasis on due process underscores the importance Florida law gives to the office of personal representative/PR. Probate judges do not have unfettered discretion to simply remove a PR because someone shows up in court and starts complaining. There needs to be evidence of wrongdoing, and that evidence needs to be presented at an evidentiary hearing affording all concerned with all of the due process protections Florida law affords to such litigants.