In many instances, when two people are named co-executor of the estate and required to act together, the co executors disagree about how to manage the estate, and co-executor problems can arise. In some instances, what should be nothing more than simple disagreements turn ugly and one executor may go rogue and start taking action without the knowledge, consent, or permission of the other co-executor. What can be done? And, what are the consequences?
First, under Georgia probate law, when a probate court has appointed two people to act as co-executors of a will they have a duty to act together in the best interests of the estate and its heirs. That means that they must make decisions together and that both of them must agree to any actions taken on behalf of an estate. If one of the co-executors does not agree, then the estate cannot take the action. So, each co executor should be working together with the other co executor to administer the estate.
When the signature of a co executor of the will is required for the estate to act (to sell a home for example) both of the coexecutors should be signing the various documents (including deeds to real property) together. If only one coexecutor is signing these documents, then they are putting themselves, the other co-executor and the estate at risk because they have no authority to act alone. If the other party to the transaction ends up being harmed or damaged as a result, then the signing executor, the other co-executor and the estate can all be liable. The reason is because both executors owe fiduciary duties to each other and to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate.
If one party is clearly acting without the consent of the other, refuses to stop acting alone, and/or attempts to hide or conceal their actions, Georgia probate law requires the other co-executor to take the issue before the probate court once he or she knows what is happening. The reason that the non-bad acting co-executor must take the matter to the probate court is because each co-executor owes fiduciary duties to the estate. If the actions of one co-executor are harming the estate and the other co-executor does nothing, then the co-executor that allows the harm to happen is no better than the one who caused the problem.
In addition, taking the matter before the probate court is one of the only ways that the innocent co-executor can make sure that he or she does not wind up liable for the bad actions of the other co-executor. If the innocent co-executor does not bring an action in probate court to stop the other co-executor from taking inappropriate actions, then both co-executors can be liable.
Georgia probate courts take these matters very seriously. If the actions of a co-executor have harmed the estate, then the judge may decide to remove that co-executor from office and/or impose other sanctions.
Because of these issues, and many more I have not mentioned, our office usually recommends against having co-executors. In most instances, the estate and the family are much better off having only one executor.
As you can imagine, sorting out situations with co-executor problems can be very complicated. Our office recommends that you engage the services of a qualified probate lawyer to make sure it is done right, and that the situation is not made worse. For more information contact us for free consultation.
Disclaimer: The information above is provided for general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Our probate lawyers provide legal advice to our clients after talking about the specific circumstances of the client’s situation. Our law firm cannot give you legal advice unless we understand your situation by talking with you. Please contact our law office to receive specific information about your situation.