Get Along with Your Co-Executor or It Will Cost You

We recently looked at a case where an estate trustee was held personally liable for costs as a result of his actions in connection with estate assets.  However, as a recent Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench case shows, if you are a co-executor, learn to get along with the other executor or you too may find yourself liable for costs.

In Bizon v. Bizon, a brother and sister were named co-executors of a third sibling’s estate.  The brother did not get along with the sister and their personal relationship affected his actions in connection with the administration of the estate.  He acted unilaterally with respect to assets, refused to provide information to the sister, and brought repeated motions that dealt only peripherally with the administration of the estate.  The motions, including a motion to remove the sister as a co-executor, were primarily directed at her personally, including allegations of bad faith, deviousness and lying.  None of these allegations were made out. 

In ordering that solicitor/client costs in connection with these motions be paid by the brother personally, the Court noted that the sister had little choice but to retain counsel in the face of her brother’s allegations.  The Court noted as well the obligation of a co-executor, even where he or she views the actions of the other co-executor to be unreasonable or wrong-headed, to try to resolve issues by explanation and discussion, not through the courts.  The Court described the bother’s actions here as attempts to “criticize, denigrate and try to bully his sister”.

Co-executorships can be difficult, especially where they involve family relationships that may not be the best.  Nonetheless, if co-executors fail to make the attempt to work together constructively to administer an estate, they may find the failure to cooperate to be financially, as well as emotionally, costly.

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