Problem Was That Arbitrator Could Construe Settlement Agreement, While Probate Court Could Control Arbitrator Appointment Issues.
This is a case where a trust beneficiary in Estate of Buser Trust, Case No. Do63381 (4th Dist., Div. 1 July 3, 2014) (unpublished) somewhat stepped into litigation “goo,” especially where both a probate court and arbitrator were concerned in somewhat parallel proceedings.
The probate court confirmed an arbitration award based on a settlement agreement. Beneficiary argued that the award impermissibly includes attorney’s fees and costs before the settlement agreement was formally approved by the probate court. The problem was that the settlement agreement language was broad and the arbitrator interpreted it against the beneficiary. However, the real rub was that beneficiary was ordered to reimburse fees and costs against beneficiary’s share of the trust estate, all in line with an arbitrator ruling. The appellate court saw no issue with this, given that the probate court referred the matter to the arbitrator and effectively “delegated” its powers to surcharge a beneficiary trust interest to the arbitrator. (Estate of Ivey, 22 Cal.App.4th 873, 882-885 (1994).)
Then, the beneficiary complained about a CCP § 128.7 sanctions award for pursuit of an unmeritorious renewed motion or reconsideration petition. Here, the main thrust of these activities focused upon appointment of the arbitrator, actions which the probate court controlled. That meant the probate court was within reason to impose sanctions for these events.