What happens when co-executors argue amongst themselves?

Published 01 May 2016

Dividing up an estate is a complex procedure, requiring people to work together and strictly follow their many legal requirements. Depending on their role in the proceedings, people may have a direct influence on the success of how an estate is distributed.

Executors in particular are in charge of distributing the assets included in an estate. If beneficiaries don’t feel these people are doing the job properly, or believe they weren’t adequately provided for by the estate, it’s important they contest a will to receive the inheritance they deserve.

In cases where there is more than one executor, it’s essential they both work together in the best interests of the estate. A recent case before the NSW Supreme Court revealed the many problems that can arise if they don’t work together.

Disagreeing co-executors disrupt estate distribution in NSW

There are many reasons why people choose to have more than one executor administer their estate after their death. In some cases, these people are intended to work as a team, an arrangement that ideally removes many of the stresses of having to manage an estate.

In other instances, one executor is meant to take the lead while the other acts as a substitute when or if things go wrong.

While these arrangements make sense in theory, if something goes wrong the relationship can have a negative impact on beneficiaries if it delays or disrupts the process of distributing the estate. In a case before the NSW Supreme Court recently, an argument between co-executors led to one attempting to remove the other from their role.

Further complicating the matters is the fact that both executors, who were also brothers, were equal beneficiaries in the estate. However, the fact there were disagreements about an amount of money spent from the estate before the testatrix’s death led to the argument.

Probate had already been granted to both brothers, a fact the plaintiff wanted to be overturned in favour of him becoming the sole executor. As well as giving up his role, the defendant was asked to produce jewellery for valuation as it was given to him outside of the estate distribution process.

The case reveals how disagreements in the process of preparing an estate for distribution can be the catalyst for contesting wills claims, especially when it affects the amount beneficiaries are due to receive.

To find out more about the legal requirements of contesting a will, contact the team at Gerard Malouf and Partners.

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