Who Does Lawyer Represent?

When a lawyer is hired by the executor of an estate, who is the client?

Short Answer    When Richard Mayberry is hired by the executor, he represents the executor in that fiduciary role, and does not represent the beneficiaries.

Explanation    "Attorneys hired by executors are not always clear to whom they owe duties of loyalty and confidentiality. Both the executor and beneficiaries may interact with the attorney as if he represents the interests of everyone involved. However, as outlined in Legal Ethics Opinions 14521599 and 1720, when an attorney is hired by the executor, she represents that person in that role. She does not represent the beneficiaries. Nonetheless, beneficiaries are not 

always knowledgeable on that point and may look to the attorney for advice and share personal information with the attorney. An attorney always has a duty to clarify his role whenever dealing with an unrepresented person when that person is confused on the point. Rule 4.3. Accordingly, where a beneficiary is under the impression that the attorney is protecting that beneficiary’s individual interest, the lawyer has an affirmative duty to clarify the matter. Also, while the executor’s attorney does not represent the beneficiary personally, she must, nonetheless, maintain awareness of the executor’s fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries and never assist in a breach of that duty. Legal Ethichs Opinion1599."

Attribution: Virginia State Bar