Disputes between Co-Personal Representatives or Co-Trustees

People appoint multiple Personal Representatives and Co-Trustees to be in charge after their death for various reasons. Typically, they genuinely believe it is in the estate’s best interest and that the parties will work together during the administration process. Unfortunately, that is most often not the case, and the parties may find themselves unable to agree on how to move forward. 

Generally, parties who are unable to reach a unanimous decision may act by majority vote. In situations where there is an odd number of appointees, this applies and quickly settles most disputes. However, in many situations there are only two fiduciaries and any disagreement means they are deadlocked. The deadlock can be resolved in a number of ways, depending on the relationship between the parties. They should first look to the Will or Trust document to see if it provides instruction for dealing with such an issue. Absent instructions from the document, if they have a good working relationship, they may choose to consult the beneficiaries as a tie-breaker or they can consult their attorney for his or her recommendation. Both of these solutions require the parties to be willing to accept defeat of their argument.

Unfortunately, more often than not, neither party is willing to accept defeat. If they can agree to be bound by the decision of an independent mediator, that person will be presented with both sides of the disagreement and he or she will issue a ruling. The ruling may be for one side or the other, or somewhere in between. In the worst case scenario, both sides hire their own independent attorneys to represent them and advise them of their rights. This may also result in one party petitioning the court to remove the other party as a fiduciary. The longer the issue is contested between them, the more the estate assets are being depleted by legal fees.