Jamie Veara, a locally prominent attorney who serves as Truro’s town counsel, among other things, has found himself in some hot water as a result of questionable dealings with a Harwichport man’s estate.

Jamie Veara, a locally prominent attorney who serves as Truro’s town counsel, among other things, has found himself in some hot water as a result of questionable dealings with a Harwichport man’s estate.

Veara has been ordered by a Plymouth County Probate and Family Court judge to pay back more than $118,000 to the estate of the late Kenneth E. Simon, to whom he acted as temporary guardian for 83 days in 2005.

The decision, which was featured in a front-page article in the Feb. 1 issue of Lawyer’s Weekly, is the result of a trial that took place over 11 days in late 2008 and early 2009. It was issued by Associate Justice Stephen C. Steinberg on Jan. 14.

In all, the judge ordered that Veara and Boston attorney Gerald Nissenbaum return $328,771 of the $500,000 they billed the estate in the short time they were involved. Veara works for the Orleans law firm of Zisson & Veara, a firm with nine attorneys which also serves as counsel for the town of Brewster.

According to the 32-page judgment, Veara was appointed temporary guardian of the 71-year-old Simon on Aug. 11, 2005. Simon, a retired financial manager, was in Pleasant Bay Nursing Home in Brewster when Veara was appointed and had an estate valued at $4.5 million, including a home in Harwichport valued at over $1 million that was left to his wife, Anne Simon.

The Simons had known each other for 11 years when they were married in July of 2004. Mrs. Simon had served jail time for running a prostitution ring on the Cape. Simon’s three children did not go to the wedding and were estranged.

It was when the children heard that their father’s nursing home bills were not being paid that they contacted attorney Nissenbaum, who went to court to have a guardian appointed to oversee Simon’s finances and to protect his well-being and assets. Nissenbaum suggested three lawyers who could act as temporary guardian, one of them being Veara, who was chosen because he was on the Cape and close by.

“From very the beginning of this case, the tactics undertaken by Nissenbaum and Veara were improper,” concluded Judge Steinberg. “Nissenbaum drafted a divorce complaint before a guardian for the ward [Simon] had even been appointed and filed the complaint on the date of Veara’s appointment. Veara never even reviewed the complaint before it was filed and then billed the estate for reviewing the complaint after it was filed.”

According to the judge, Veara did not meet with Simon until five days after he was appointed. Simon had been moved from the nursing home to Cape Cod Hospital because his kidneys were failing. Veara testified that he did not know where Mr. Simon was, testimony the judge did not believe. Veara also testified that Mrs. Simon had illegally removed her husband from the nursing home, which was not the case.

The judge noted in his decision that Veara and Nissenbaum filed motions barring the wife’s access to bank and investment accounts and attempting to have the marriage annulled. He stated that they talked of paying off the wife’s lawyer if he settled, charged for duplicitous work and did not act in the interest of Simon, who died on Nov. 2, less than three months after Veara’s appointment as guardian.

According to the decision, Veara charged $400 an hour for the work, at least $100 more per hour than his highest rate, even though he had no experience being a guardian, and even though Nissenbaum’s firm did the legal work. The two lawyers billed the estate approximately $80,000 for taking depositions, $60,000 of it for deposing Mrs. Simon. Nissenbaum deposed, at $500 per hour, while Veara observed, charging $400 per hour.

“Nissenbaum and Veara wildly spent the ward’s money,” wrote Judge Steinberg, pointing to the $20,000 spent on a research firm to investigate Simon’s wife, $4,000 to draw up a new estate plan and $6,000 to prepare complaints to sue the wife in Superior Court. “Veara and Nissenbaum did not present any evidence that [Simon] would have consented to these expenses had he been aware of them,” he wrote.

“Nissenbaum and Veara made this litigation unnecessarily hostile which increased fees. Their strategy from the beginning of the litigation was to remove Mrs. Simon from the picture…The fact that Nissenbaum and Veara hatched a plan to get the ward divorced before Veara had even been appointed guardian and before anyone had even spoken to the ward makes clear that the goal of the guardianship was to get rid of Mrs. Simon.”

According to the records, the divorce complaint was denied and Mrs. Simon received a settlement in September of 2006. In November a retired judge was appointed to assess the reasonableness of Veara and Nissenbaum’s fees. In April, Simon’s three children withdrew their approval of the fees.

It was the children who took Veara and Nissenbaum to court over the fees.
Judge Steinberg determined that reasonable fees for Nissenbaum totaled $115,517.72, including out-of-pocket expenses, and that reasonable fees for Veara totaled $21,227.04. He gave them 30 days to pay back the estate.

“The court declines to award Nissenbaum and Veara any fees for the defense of their first and final account as their egregious behavior and outrageous fees necessitated the defense.”

Contacted by telephone, Veara said he is appealing the decision to the State Appeals Court. He said he “could fill volumes” commenting on the decision.

“The decision is only the tip of the iceberg,“ Veara said. “Initially everybody agreed to the accounting, but a local judge chose not to accept [it].” Veara said the judge then named a “hand-picked appeal court judge” to hold hearings, but decided not to accept that judge’s approval of the fees. “Dissatisfied, the judge continued and was recused,” Veara said. It was then that Simon’s children reversed their approval of the fees and rates.

“It’s been a long process and it’s not over,” Veara said.

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