Coexecutors – Improper Rule 54(b) Certification – Fraudulent Transfer Act

Bentley v. Bentley; Bentley v. Bentley, [Ms. SC-2022-0522 and -0526, Apr. 21, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). In Case No. 2022-0522, the Court (Cook, J.; Parker, C.J., and Wise, Sellers, and Stewart, JJ., concur) dismisses Richard W. Bentley’s appeal from the Cullman Circuit Court’s partial summary judgment dismissing two of six cross-claims asserted by Richard against his brother James Randall Bentley. Richard and Randall were coexecutors of the estate of their father, Dedrick William Bentley.

The Court reiterates that “an executor’s decision to file a lawsuit is discretionary in nature, 530 So. 3d at 235. See also Douglass v. Jones, 628 So. 2d 940, 941 (Ala. Civ. App. 1993)” and “lawsuits filed on behalf of an estate must be brought unanimously by coexecutors.” Ms. *13. However, this rule does not affect the circuit court’s subject matter jurisdiction where coexecutors sue each other. Ibid. The Court concludes the issues presented by Richard’s cross-claims are “closely intertwined” with pending issues regarding the administration of the estate and “the circuit court exceeded its discretion in certifying its partial summary judgment in favor of Randy as final pursuant to Rule 54(b).” Ms. *16.

In Case No. SC-2022-0526 (Cook, J.; Parker, C.J., and Wise and Stewart, JJ., concur; Sellers, J., concurs in the result), Richard appeals from a summary judgment that he violated the provisions of the Alabama Fraudulent Transfer Act when he transferred assets from Dedrick’s estate to his trust without first disclosing the transfer to his ex-wife, Leslie, who held a judgment against Richard for unpaid child support. The Court affirms citing Richard’s deposition testimony, “I’m really hiding a lot man. This (the trust) is a hider.” Ms. **21-22.

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