The Estate of Jean Maureen Dahle, Deceased, 2021 BCSC 718, provides an example of two co-executors who couldn’t get along. In this case, the solution was to appoint a trust company as a third co-executor in order to break the deadlock and allow the administration of the estate to proceed.
The Deceased died in 2015 and was survived by her six children. In her will, she appointed two of the six as co-executors and co-trustees of her estate, but the two siblings struggled to work together. Given that they were required to exercise their duties jointly and were expected to act unanimously, the acrimony resulted in a long delay in the administration of the estate. In the end, both brothers brought separate court applications to have the other removed from their respective role.
After considering the relevant statutory and common law authorities regarding the removal of an executor and trustee, the court reviewed the various allegations raised by each brother and noted that neither of them were blameless in the process to date. However, bearing in mind that a testator’s discretion to choose their executors and trustees should be given deference and not interfered with lightly, Justice Majawa opted to allow both brothers to remain in their roles (largely in light of their decision to add a professional trust company with as co-executor and co-trustee).
With the addition of the trust company and provisions ensuring that it must be one of the majority decision makers, the remaining work can be completed in a reasonable timeframe - much to the relief of all of the beneficiaries!
This case provides an excellent illustration of the ways in which people with different values and ideas may see things differently, and the effects this can have on a will maker’s estate. Some potential solutions are to involve a trust company from the get-go, or to stick to odd numbers to ensure that majority decision making is available to resolve an impasse. While the right approach will vary depending on your specific circumstances, the reality is that two executors may not be better than one!
This article is intended for information purposes only and should not be taken as the provision of legal advice. Grace C. Cleveland is a lawyer with the law firm of Cleveland Doan LLP and can be reached at (604)536-5002 or firstname.lastname@example.org.