“In the present case it is ultimately blindingly obvious that the existing executors should be replaced by an independent professional acceptable to both … “
(CMR) The estate of former Compass owner, Brian Richard Selby Uzzell, was recently featured in the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands as his four sons requested the two executors of the estate be removed and an independent professional be appointed instead.
The judge concluded that it was best to appoint an independent professional executor and despite the objections of his long-term companion she was ultimately removed.
The decision handed down by The Honourable Justice Kawaley noted that Justin Uzzell and Andrea Wong Sam were both remaining executors after Uzzell's other three sons had relinquished any interest in administering the estate.
However, these two remaining executors have been at odds with each other and unable to “work together to progress the administration of the estate.”
Andrea Wong Sam, the sole Defendant, was a long time partner and former employee of his at the Cayman Compass where she worked as a sales account manager. The two lived together and had a personal relationship until his death in November 2018 at age 82. He left her a small portion of his estate said to be about 5%.
Justice Kawaley noted that the only statutory grounds to remove an executor who would not voluntarily resign are “neglect or misconduct.” In an affidavit, the Plaintiffs were claiming that Sam “neglected and mismanaged the administration of the Estate.”
For her part, the Defendant also supplied a 33-page affidavit “making serious allegations of misconduct” on Justin Uzzell and asking for his removal. She agreed to the appointment of an independent executor but indicated her unwillingness to step down.
Considering her position the judge eventually concluded that:
“The Defendant's insistence that she remain in office despite the small size of her stake and the questions which have been raised about her fitness, regretfully, merely highlights her failure to appreciate the need for an executor who is also a beneficiary to be a champion for interests other than her own.”
The first question for the judge to consider was whether or not the application could be dealt with summarily on the basis of a broader jurisdiction than section 8 of the Succession Law (2006 Revision) allowed.
He concluded that the narrow remit of section 8 of the Law could not confer a broader jurisdiction, but perhaps other sections did such as section 42 of the law read along with section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985.
The Plaintiffs argued that section 42 of the Law gave a much broader jurisdiction.
The parties were in agreement that the relationship between them has broken down to the point that they were unable to work together. The Defendant also agreed that Carlos de Serpa Pimental of Appleby would be appropriate as a professional executor. Despite that, she would not be willing to relinquish her office.
If the matter could be dealt with summarily a costly and lengthy trial could be avoided.
The judge found that he was not limited to just the aspects mentioned in section 8 of the law and there were sufficient grounds to appoint an independent professional executor. He used the discretionary powers conferred under section 50 in considering the most pragmatic decision.
The Plaintiffs were represented by Ms. Shan Warnock-Smith QC instructed by Ms. Morven McMillian and Mr. Adam Huckle of Maples. The Defendant was represented by Mr. Anthony Akiwumi of Etienne Blake.