In Delaware Court Of Chancery Matter, Magistrate Concludes That Former Personal Representative Breached Her Duties, Resulting In A Relatively Small Amount Of Damages To The Estate

Delaware Fiduciary Litigation Blog

Posted April 12, 2024

In the Matter of the Estate of Sherri Zamichieli, C.A. No. 2023-0292-SEM (April 5, 2024)

          In this case, Magistrate Molina issued post-trial findings and conclusions relating to the fall-out from a personal representative failing to perform certain duties leading to her removal. Subsequent to that removal, Lee Vega (the “Petitioner”), the successor personal representative, advanced a breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim against the former personal representative, Stephanie Zamichieli, (the “Respondent”). The Petitioner claimed that the breach resulted in damages to the decedent’s estate (the “Estate”) of at least $80,000.00.

          Sherri Zamichieli (the “Decedent”) died on May 25, 2020 without a will. She was survived by two daughters, the Respondent and Michelle Zamichieli (whose husband is the Petitioner).  Respondent didn’t do a very good job as personal representative (she admittedly missed deadlines, and otherwise failed to perform her duties) and the Magistrate eventually ordered that she be replaced by Petitioner.  The Estate owned real property, and the Petitioner desired to sell that to raise liquidity for the Estate.  The court approved of that sale, and Respondent—who had been living in that real property—was ejected by court order.  That sale generated slightly over $80,000 in proceeds for the Estate.

          After conducting the trial, the Magistrate concluded that the Respondent did not breach her duties regarding the real property as “[t]he Petitioner has not demonstrated that the condition of the Estate, while the Respondent was fiduciary, was such that failing to petition to sell the Property to pay the Estate’s debts was outside a good faith administration or otherwise not an exercise of ordinary care, prudence, skill, and diligence.” The Magistrate, however, did find that the Respondent’s removal of $9,566.48 of estate funds for her personal benefit was a breach and that the Respondent also improperly retained certain items owned by the Estate. But the Magistrate denied Petitioner’s request for fees.  In sum, the Magistrate concluded that, “(1) the Respondent’s share of the Estate should be surcharged in the amount of $4,783.24, which should, instead, be credited to [Michelle Zamichieli’s] share and (2) the identified personal property should be returned to the Estate unless the parties can agree otherwise.”


William M. Kelleher, Director
Gordon, Fournaris & Mammarella, P.A.