Estates with Multiple Fiduciaries Pose Ethical and Practical Issues for Attorneys and Clients Alike – Journal | 2001

January 04, 2002

The conflicts that can arise in the representation of estate or trust fiduciaries are limited only by the imagination of creative counsel. Sometimes the conflicts are obvious, sometimes subtle, sometimes apparent from the inception of the relationship, and sometimes they develop over time.

A typical example: You, the estates practitioner, are asked to attend a meeting with the named co-executors and co-trustees under the decedent’s will. They want to retain you to handle the probate and administration. However, it soon becomes apparent that there are actual conflicts of interest between the estate and some of them in their individual capacities. It also becomes clear that potential conflicts may arise in their fiduciary capacities. Can you represent them as a group; and, if so, how?

One of the individuals is already your client, and you also represent the closely held corporation of which he is president. One of the assets of the estate is an interest in that corporation. How do you advise this client regarding his respective responsibilities to the corporation and to the estate?

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Reprinted with permission from: New York State Bar Association Journal, December 1999, Vol. 71, No. 9, published by the New York State Bar Association, One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207.

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