Ex parte Raymond Adams, as coexecutor of the estate of Clifford Wayne Cleveland, deceased; In re: Clifford Wayne Cleveland II and Celeste Cleveland Minor
Raymond Adams, as coexecutor of the estate of Clifford Wayne Cleveland, deceased
Released for Publication July 22, 2015.
(Autauga Circuit Court, CV-14-30). Sibley G. Reynolds, Trial Judge.
For Petitioner: Debra D. Spain, Chad W. Bryan, Capell & Howard, P.C., Montgomery.
For Respondents: Rob Riddle, Cleveland & Riddle Attorneys at Law, LLC, Prattville.
BRYAN, Justice. Parker, Murdock, and Shaw, JJ., concur.
PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
Raymond Adams has petitioned this Court for the writ of mandamus directing the Autauga Circuit Court (1) to remove Clifford Wayne Cleveland II (" Chip" or " Chip Cleveland" ) as coexecutor of the estate of Clifford Wayne Cleveland (" the estate" ), (2) to vacate its order prohibiting the estate from hiring an attorney or a certified public accountant (" CPA" ), (3) to compel Chip and his sister, Celeste Cleveland Minor, to produce property and assets of the estate that are in their possession, and (4) to impose sanctions on Chip and Minor. For the reasons set forth below, we deny the petition.
Facts and Procedural History
Clifford Wayne Cleveland died on March 28, 2014. In his will, Cleveland named his law partner Louis C. Colley and business partner Adams as coexecutors of the estate. Colley and Adams petitioned the Autauga Probate Court to probate the estate and were granted letters testamentary. On April 30, 2014, the Autauga Circuit Court granted Chip and Minor's motion, as beneficiaries under Cleveland's will, to have the probate of the estate removed to that court.
On May 5, 2014, Chip and Minor moved the circuit court to disqualify Adams as a coexecutor of the estate, arguing as a basis for disqualification that Adams does not reside in Alabama. The circuit court set the motion for a hearing on May 27, 2014, and gave Adams " ten days to provide proof of his residency." Petition, at Exhibit 5. On May 9, 2014, Chip and Minor moved the circuit court to prohibit Adams from retaining any third-party professionals, such as attorneys or CPAs, to assist with the administration of the estate, arguing that it was an unnecessary expense. The circuit court entered an order on that date, granting the motion and prohibiting any coexecutor or beneficiary from hiring such professional help " until further order" of the circuit court. The circuit court also set the issue for further discussion at the May 27 hearing.
On May 16, 2014, Adams filed with the circuit court a statement of residency, acknowledging that " he currently resides in North Carolina" but arguing that,
" [c]ontrary to the Motion to Disqualify Co-Executor filed by [Chip and Minor], out-of-state residency does not preclude [the] service of an executor appointed by
Will. Rather, Ala. Code § 43-2-22 only imposes an in-state residency requirement upon administrators of intestate estates."
Petition, at Exhibit 13. Also on May 16 Colley resigned as coexecutor of the estate, stating that he did not have time to fulfill his duties as coexecutor and noting that " [he] ha[d] been informed by Chip Cleveland, son of [Cleveland], that [Chip] is willing to assume the role of [c]o-[e]xecutor." Petition, at Exhibit 10. That same day, Chip moved the circuit court to substitute him in Colley's place as coexecutor or, in the alternative, to appoint him as a coexecutor of the estate. The circuit court granted that motion and appointed Chip coexecutor on May 19, 2014.
Adams objected to the substitution of Chip as coexecutor, arguing:
" Neither the [w]ill nor Alabama law provides any basis for the substitution of an unnamed co-executor in the place of a co-executor who resigns his appointment. Rather, as a matter of law, the sole remaining co-executor is vested with full authority to act on behalf of the estate. A court may only appoint a substitute personal representative when all of the designated co-executors are unable to serve."
Petition, at Exhibit 16. The circuit court " noted" Adams's objection but took no further action with regard ...