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07/31/89 In Re Estate of Robert Walder Thompson

July 31, 1989



(Robert Walder Thompson, Petitioner-Appellant, v.

MARSHALL PATNER et al., Respondents-Appellees)

542 N.E.2d 949, 186 Ill. App. 3d 874, 134 Ill. Dec. 603 1989.IL.1180

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Richard E. Dowdle, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE BUCKLEY delivered the opinion of the court. CAMPBELL and O'CONNOR, JJ., concur.


In this consolidated appeal, Dr. Robert Walder Thompson (petitioner), a disabled person, appeals from three orders entered by the probate court on matters relating to his estate. The petitioner's family, Lee Thompson and his six children (respondent family), responds to petitioner's appeal of the February 24, 1988, order denying a petition to restore competency over petitioner's estate and awarding attorney fees, as well as the March 23, 1988, order denying petitioner's motion for leave to appeal and retain counsel. *fn1 The guardian of the estate, the Northern Trust Company (respondent Northern Trust), responds to petitioner's appeal of the May 24, 1988, order forbidding petitioner to purchase or drive an automobile because of his disability as to his estate. Petitioner raises the following issues on appeal: (1) whether the circuit court erred in holding that he was not entitled to an appeal; (2) whether the circuit court erred in not permitting him to retain counsel for appeal; (3) whether the circuit court was justified in awarding attorney fees to an attorney not representing the guardian of the estate; (4) whether the circuit court's denial of the restoration petition as to his estate was against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (5) whether the circuit court erred in revoking his driving privileges. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm in part, reverse in part and remand.

Petitioner is a 69-year-old renowned physicist who possesses a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and whose work is displayed at the Smithsonian Institute. In the mid-1960's petitioner began suffering from alcohol addiction and was subsequently adjudicated a disabled adult in 1976 pursuant to sections 11a-1 through 11a-23 of the Probate Act of 1975 (the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110 1/2, par. 1-1 et seq.). As a result of his disability, respondent Northern Trust was appointed guardian of the estate, and, in 1978, a conservator of his person, Maxine R. Bardach, was appointed.

On January 11, 1982, the circuit court fully restored petitioner to competency of his person and removed Bardach as guardian. Respondent Northern Trust, however, remained guardian over the estate. No petition for restoration of petitioner's estate was made at this time, but petitioner was granted financial privileges consisting of an allowance of discretionary funds. From an estate valued over $1.1 million, petitioner is currently managing approximately $60,000, the amount he has saved from his discretionary fund.

On December 29, 1983, petitioner filed a "Petition for Termination of Adjudication of Disability" over his estate. Before proceedings commenced on this petition, the circuit court entered an order on June 8, 1984, granting approval of petitioner's purchase of an automobile from his discretionary funds. The circuit court entered this order following petitioner's testimony that he would utilize the vehicle for convenience and regular attendance at "AA" meetings. After numerous psychiatric evaluations, hearings were held on the petition, commencing in May 1987, and ending in May 1988. Throughout the restoration proceedings, co-counsel Mark Epstein and Barry Feinberg *fn2 represented petitioner.

Evidence adduced at the hearings disclosed the following: Two expert witnesses, both psychiatrists who had evaluated petitioner on previous occasions, testified at the hearing. Dr. Jerome Beigler, petitioner's treating physician, testified to the damage petitioner incurred as a result of his alcohol addiction. Although Dr. Beigler determined that petitioner suffered some brain damage, he stated that a guardian for petitioner's estate was unnecessary.

Dr. Jan Fawcett testified as a court-appointed expert psychiatrist. Dr. Fawcett deemed petitioner incompetent as to his estate. He testified that petitioner has suffered from dementia associated with alcoholism and that he lacks the judgment necessary to manage a substantial amount of money. Dr. Fawcett expressed his concern that petitioner would suffer from increased stress due to the management of his large estate and would return to alcohol abuse.

On February 24, 1988, Judge Dowdle denied petitioner's petition for restoration as to his estate. At the same time, he awarded attorney fees to Marshall Patner, who represented members of petitioner's family on numerous matters throughout the hearings. He also instructed the petitioner, sua sponte, to cease driving and to divest himself of any automobile. The circuit court later denied petitioner's request for funding to repurchase an automobile and insurance coverage, despite an opinion ...

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