Conflict of interest?
August 4, 2008 5:31 PM   Subscribe

The lawyer for the estate is also the lawyer for the negligent executor. Conflict of interest?

My dad died 7 years ago. His will named my brother and me co-executors of his estate. My brother took over settling the estate because he lives in the same city as our dad did and because he, well, takes over. The estate is in Illinois; I live in another state.

The value of the estate, as far as I know, was about $400k. The beneficiaries are my brother and I, in equal shares.

My brother chose the lawyer who was supposed to help settle the estate. Seven years later, the estate is still not settled. Some of the proceeds still have not been distributed to me. My brother has his share; my remaining share (bonds) is in his personal safe deposit box.

I have tried repeatedly for the last year to get my brother to at least send me the bonds. However, I haven't gotten them or even an inventory of assets--he hasn't sent me any documents related to the estate. The estate is still legally open.

Now I've found out that the lawyer for the estate has also defended my brother in some unrelated legal cases, most recently a few months ago.

I am lawyering up and will sue my brother. The question is whether I should also take any action against the lawyer for the estate. I'm not sure what his duties were supposed to be beyond filing things in court. But it doesn't seem like he could fairly represent the best interests of the estate while simultaneously representing the interests of only one of the executors--the one who is refusing to relinquish the remainder of the estate.

I realize this is a question for my lawyer (calling him this week), but I'd like to get some additional perspectives before I decide what to do.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (5 answers total)
Well, it doesn't become a conflict of interest until you sue your brother, unless the lawyer's had more involvement than you let on. Your brother is using the same lawyer for more than one endeavour that he's involved in. That sounds normal.

The lawyer is required to do what is best for his client. He has many clients. Once in a while, what is best for one client may conflict with what is best for another client. Then he has a conflict of interest and should probably stop representing one of the two. Right now, your brother and the estate are just two of his many clients. You've said nothing that indicates that the lawyer would know that there's a conflict between the interests of these two clients.

posted by winston at 6:00 PM on August 4, 2008

Well, it doesn't become a conflict of interest until you sue your brother, unless the lawyer's had more involvement than you let on.

That's wrong. Please leave the lawyering to lawyers.
posted by jayder at 7:23 PM on August 4, 2008

The only way to get another (professional) perspective is to consult another lawyer. But since you haven't even talked to the lawyer you hired yet, why don't you wait until you talk to him and THEN decide whether to pony up the cash to speak to a second lawyer? None of us are qualified to give you advice on this question. You could, of course, call the state bar and complaint about your perceptions of your brother's lawyer, but that might piss off that lawyer and who knows, maybe he's actually doing a good impartial job.

But do yourself a favor and sit on your hands for a week. You've waited 7 years, seven more days is not gonna kill you.
posted by Happydaz at 9:15 PM on August 4, 2008

This one is too complicated to be answered in the way that you seek.

Right now you are going through a lot emotionally. With family involved, you should get a mental health professional. I tell each of my clients that.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:39 AM on August 5, 2008

From an ethical perspective, the lawyer the executor retains is the lawyer for the executor, not for the estate. He is retained to advise the executor on what he should do.

Consulting with your own lawyer is what you should do. If he finds it appropriate, he will ask the probate court to intervene and get things moving along.
posted by yclipse at 5:27 AM on August 5, 2008

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