I primarily represent the fiduciary in my trust and probate cases. That is I represent the trustee, executor, administrator or personal representative. That is, the person who has been in-trusted to gather assets, determine liabilities, deal with taxes and eventually distribute the assets. However, there are some cases when I represent a beneficiary.
In most of these representations I am just monitoring the proceedings to make sure the fiduciary does what they are supposed to do, answer questions, be the middle man to communicate with the other attorney and give my client peace of mind that they are being treated fairly. A lot of times the attorney for the fiduciary will not discuss matters with a beneficiary. Since they only represent the fiduciary they feel they can’t talk to you. In my opinion some of these attorneys take this to the extreme and just won’t communicate with a beneficiary who is not represented.
In my opinion though the attorney represents the fiduciary they can share general information. They also can share documents that have been filed with the Court. A lot of times just that little bit of information will make a beneficiary feel better. However, when the attorney won’t take their call, won’t return calls or just says, “I can’t talk to you I represent the trustee,” they are creating potential conflict. It’s too bad because it’s avoidable!
People just want to know they are being treated fairly. In most cases they are being treated fairly but without counsel it’s hard to know. When you are in the dark it’s hard to know. When you have an attorney on YOUR SIDE you can sleep better as you will be in the light! I enjoy representing beneficiaries as I know what to look for and know what the other attorney and the fiduciary should be doing. If they aren’t doing it I let them know!
Likewise I have a case right now where I represent the Executor in a probate case. The family is not sophisticated and one of the heirs at law is not only unsophisticated but also a hot head. The combination is bad. Since she doesn’t understand what is going on she just objects. I have tried to help her as best I can since I don’t represent her. However, she is not taking my help since she doesn’t understand it. She keeps saying she will get her own attorney and my client thinks this is some big threat. I keep saying, “great, I hope she gets an attorney.” If I had an educated probate attorney to talk to this case would be nearing the end and everybody could get their money and move on with life. Instead I got an uneducated hot head questioning everything and creating problems for everybody. As an attorney this is quite frustrating! I keep hoping she will find a knowledgeable probate attorney to represent her.
In most cases the beneficairies probably don’t need their own attorney but there is nothing wrong with it. I know I advise my fiduciary clients to do things properly so I have no problem with someone looking over my shoulder and keeping an eye on things.
If you are a beneficiary of an estate and want beneficiary representation contact me. I would be happy to hear about your case and see if I can help. If I already represent the fiduciary in your case then nobody in my firm can represent you but I certainly encourage you to get your own counsel.