Surrogate Robert Gigante

Petitioner daughter sought to remove her father, DeSantis, as trustee of a testamentary trust created for her benefit. DeSantis sought to prevent disclosure of his personal tax returns for 2006 through 2011—the years for which he served as trustee. He claimed tax returns are private and confidential, and thus cannot be disclosed as petitioner failed to show they are relevant to issues in the case, or the information in them cannot be obtained through other means. Petitioner argued that where substantial allegations of fraud and self-dealing on the part of the fiduciary are at issue, personal tax returns are discoverable. The court found petitioner sought review of the tax returns to corroborate the amount of rental income reported in DeSantis’ accounting, and the amount paid for labor and other services he provided to the properties. It agreed with petitioner that the exclusion of this income from the tax returns was relevant to DeSantis’ credibility. The protective order was denied after finding based on the serious allegations of fiduciary misconduct, and relevancy of the returns to both corroborate information and DeSantis’ credibility, the information sought was relevant to the accounting suit, and could not be obtained through other means.