By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In deciding a seemingly routine guardianship proceeding, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Barros had to contend with New York State law as well as a guardianship order previously executed in Egypt.
In refusing to recognize the Egyptian order, naming a son as guardian to his elderly father, as a complete authority, Barros found for the elderly man’s wife.
In Matter of Gabr, 100223/2011, Ahmed Mohamed Gabr sought to control the U.S. assets of his father, Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Gabr. The elder Gabr was a resident in Egypt for many years before returning to the United States. While in Egypt, he married Sana'a Mohamed Gabr and suffered a stroke shortly thereafter that left him wheelchair bound.
Upon returning the United States, the elder Gabr set up residence in Brooklyn, where his son sought to have the Egyptian guardianship order enforced.
While in Egypt, the son Gabr sought and received a guardianship order from an Egyptian tribunal after asserting that Sana’a “forced and unduly influenced” the father Gabr to dissipate $300,000.00 of his funds. Barros found that the accusations the son Gabr relied on to receive the Egyptian order “proved false.”
The Egyptian proceedings “procedurally and substantively…conflict with New York guardianship law,” Barros contended. In New York, when an allegedly incapacitated person is deemed in need of a guardian, changes in said person’s physical condition, such as brain decay, as well as functional changes, such as ability to feed or dress oneself, must be taken into consideration.
The Egyptian order, Barros found, based its decision solely on the elder Gabr’s functional changes.
In addition, Egyptian law requires that “guardianship be vested in the adult son, then the father, then in the grandfather and thereafter be vested in whoever the Court may choose.”
New York law, Barros wrote, “has no gender bias in the appointment of a guardian.” As the Egyptian order did not conform to “the public policy of [New York State],” Barros decided not to take the Egyptian order into consideration during the Brooklyn guardianship hearing.
During the Brooklyn hearing, it was revealed that the younger Gabr had been estranged from his father and that he could not account for the money he collected and spent during his tenure as guardian under the Egyptian order.
In fact, Barros found the son Gabr “unreliable and disingenuous,” and was impressed “with the amount of trust [the father Gabr] placed in his wife [Sana’a],” who had been his “main caretaker since their marriage.”
In addition, Barros found reasonable explanations for the funds that the son Gabr alleged Sana’a misappropriated. “The $330,000.00 [some 2,000,000.00 Egyptian pounds] withdrawn by Sana'a was not a `grab for assets’,” Barros wrote, “but instead had been withdrawn over the entire length of the marriage to support their lifestyle.”
Barros conducted a “fair trial,” said Manhattan attorney Joel Schonfeld, who represented the son in the Brooklyn proceeding.
Gil Perez, the court-appointed attorney for the father and Sana’a, echoed Schonfeld’s assessment of the Brooklyn trial. “The judge found with the facts presented,” he said. It was an “appropriate” ruling.