News & Insights

Williams v. Boggess, Record No. 0600-23-3 (Va. Ct. App. Apr. 9, 2024)

Case Briefs

April 9, 2024

By: Juli M. Porto

Virginia Appellate Law Blog

View Full Article

In its only published opinion today, the Court of Appeals construes a provision of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act.


Facts. Margaret Ward named Carl Boggess as her agent in a durable power of attorney. Ward’s niece Doris Williams suspected that Boggess was mishandling her aunt’s finances, so she filed a petition seeking an accounting under Code § 64.2-1614(A)(5). That statute allows certain relatives, including nieces, to “construe a power of attorney” or “review the agent’s conduct.”

Williams’ first petition was dismissed for failure to “state factual allegations sufficient to grant the Petition.” Williams therefore filed an amended petition, but her aunt died while it was pending. Williams then filed a second amended petition and asked for a court order requiring Boggess to provide discovery of financial records.

The court held an evidentiary hearing at which it questioned Williams on her interest in the matter. Williams testified that she wanted to pursue discovery for the “relief” and “satisfaction” of knowing that her aunt had been “put away like she had asked.” Boggess argued that Ward was a “very private person” and would not want “anybody to know her affairs.” Williams agreed that her aunt was a “private person.” After the hearing, the court denied Williams’ petition for discovery, holding that although she had standing to bring the action, the court had discretion to deny the action after considering the interests of Ward and her estate. The trial court found that Williams’ petition amounted to a “fishing expedition.” Williams appealed.


Issue. When a qualifying relative makes a timely petition for an accounting, must the court order discovery or grant other relief, or does the statute give the trial court discretion?


Holding. Even when a petitioner has standing to seek a statutory accounting under Code § 64.2-1614(B)(2), a trial court has discretion to grant or deny that request.


Notes. The Court of Appeals rules that the answer to the issue lies in the statutory language. After a petition for an accounting is filed, Code § 64.2-1614(B)(2) states that a court “may” hold a hearing, and that after “consideration of the interest of the principal and his estate,” the court “may” act is it deems appropriate, including dismissing the petition. The “highly permissive ‘may’ language” gives the court discretion to act regardless of a petitioner’s standing to file the action. Here, the Court of Appeals did not find that the trial court abused its discretion. It was not improper for the court to consider Williams’ interest in the action nor was its conclusion that Williams’ interest in “relief” and “satisfaction” amounted to a “fishing expedition.” It was also not improper for the court to consider evidence that Ward was a “private person” since Code § 64.2-1614(B)(2) requires a court to consider “the interest of the principal and his estate” when deciding how to rule on a petition. The Court of Appeals concludes that there was no clear error in the trial court’s judgment.


Read the Opinion

Related Attorneys