In our last couple posts, we have been writing about ongoing probate litigation between Julia and Frank Lumpkin III, the son and daughter of Frank Lumpkin Jr., who died in 2000. As we noted, Julia Lumpkin removed was judicially removed last month as a representative of her parents' estate. What we didn't mention before is that Julia Lumpkin was the probate judge in charge of the case.
In 2010, Frank Lumpkin accused her of abusing her office by delaying the administration of the wills. The delay has lasted over ten years, preventing administration of the estate from concluding. One of the major issues in the dispute, as we noted, is season football tickets for the University of Georgia. After the suit was filed, Julia recused herself as judge, but remained a personal representative of the estate.
In granting Frank Lumpkin's request to remove his sister as co-executrix of the estate, a senior judge noted that the appointment was actually void from the beginning since it was in direct opposition to Georgia law.
Under Georgia law, the judge of a probate court cannot, during their term in office, act as executor, administrator, or guardian, or other agent of a fiduciary nature required to account to his or her court. Probate laws like this are in place so that parties that have an interest in an estate have a neutral and impartial forum for settling any disputes that come up.
While Julia Lumpkin's attorney argued that Frank Lumpkin waived her disqualification years ago, and that she actually didn't appoint herself as co-executrix, Frank's attorney argued that it was nevertheless Julia Lumpkin's court that made the appointment.
It isn't clear yet whether Julia Lumpkin will challenge the recent ruling. If the ruling is left intact, though, she would no longer be the judge of the case, or a personal representative, but only a beneficiary. And she could be held liable to the estate for damages.
Source: Ledger-Enquirer, "Update: Court ruling removes Probate Judge Julia Lumpkin from her parents' estates," Jim Mustian, August 15, 2012