Chapter 5 – The Attorney-Client Relationship in probate
The most common confusion in probate is who does the attorney represent. Let me start by saying, loudly, THE ATTORNEY DOES NOT REPRESENT THE ESTATE. There is simply no such representation. The attorney for the PR represents the PR and represents the PR only. If you are a beneficiary in a probate you might want to have your own attorney for beneficiary representation as the PR’s attorney does not represent you. Having said that, let me be clear that the attorney is not likely to try to work against your desires. However, they don’t have to look out for them. Their job is to represent their client… the PR. I like to say that if I am doing my job right it indirectly helps the beneficiaries. That is because my advice to the PR is to do the probate process correctly. If my client listens to me and does everything correctly then the beneficiaries also benefit.
Also, it should be noted that many attorneys will be difficult to reach if you are an individual beneficiary and in some cases attorneys won’t talk to you. It is my opinion that this is not proper. Why should an attorney force an individual to get their own attorney to communicate with? That seems wrong. However, I have seen it many times. My general rule is that I will answer general questions about the probate process but I really can’t answer questions that are too specific or too strategic. However, questions regarding when will the probate likely end are very reasonable to ask and something people commonly want to know. I would say the key, if you are a beneficiary, is to ask your questions respectfully, with as little intrusion as possible (I find email easiest) and also don’t call them all the time. That will likely turn off the communications for many attorneys.
If needed you can hire an attorney to represent your beneficial interest. That is, represent you as a beneficiary, creditor or other interested party. You would have to pay your attorney but they would be focused on representing YOU and only you. This type of beneficiary representation can be vital in some cases. It’s particular important where there is a complex will, uncertainty about a family relationship, fears of the PR not doing their job right and other such situations. Chapter ____ talks more about beneficiary representation.