A Disagreement Over The Estate
In some instances, there can be co-executors on a Minnesota probate (another name for executor is personal representative). This is not uncommon. However, it can also pose a very serious dilemma. What happens when the co-executors disagree on how to handle the estate?
A Tale Of Two Cousins
Let's look at an example with two cousins, Betty and Kim. Betty lives in Chanhassan, not too far from her uncle Jerry. Jerry was a brother to Betty's dad and she remained close to her uncle through the years.
Over the past winter, Uncle Jerry struggled with heart disease and eventually passed away in February. Betty was saddened by this event, but took comfort in his passing as Uncle Jerry was in great pain.
Prior to his passing, Uncle Jerry had told Betty that she was going to be a Co-Executor for his estate, along with his only daughter Kim. When they were younger, Betty was like an older sister to her cousin Kim. As they entered adulthood, however, Kim had moved to Nevada and they had grown apart.
Reunited To Handle The Estate
Now with Uncle Jerry's passing, Betty and Kim are reunited under less-than-perfect circumstances. Jerry had set aside most of his assets (pickup truck and house) to Kim, with a single 10 oz. gold bar going to Betty. Additionally, there are about $10,000 worth of bills that have accumulated, which Betty has collected.
Betty just discovered Kim has placed the pickup truck and house up for sale. With her name also listed as Co-Executor, Betty is concerned that Kim is not addressing the outstanding bills the estate owes. What can she do?
According to Minnesota law, when there are co-executors or co-personal representatives on an estate, it takes both signatures in order to sell or transfer ownership of any asset. Thus Betty has the ability to say no on any sale if she doesn't think that a particular sale is a good idea.
The bank account that receives the proceeds from the sale of assets should be put into an estate account at a bank that both executors have access to.
Good To Be Cautious
Betty is wise to be cautious in what she does as a co-executor. Betty is serving as an officer of the probate court and she has legal obligations to the creditors, the heirs and to the court. A personal representative can be personally liable if he or she violates any of the duties to others.
Betty is well advised to be careful. If she encounters problems, she should consult with a probate attorney to be sure she is doing everything correctly. Incidentally, the legal fees Betty incurs to get advice are normally payable from the assets of the estate.
The contents of this article are for information only and is not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning. The U.S. Treasury Department requires us to advise you that any written tax advice cannot be used and is not intended to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. Written advice from our firm relating to any Federal Tax matters may not, without our express written consent, be used in promoting, marketing or recommending any entity, investment plan or arrangement to any taxpayer.