Representing an Estate?
If you have been appointed a personal representative or conservator of an estate, you may want to seek legal counsel to assist you in performing your administrative duties, especially for a large or complicated estate. But, when you hire an attorney in this situation, you may ask: who does the attorney work for – me, as the fiduciary, or the estate? Considering that the attorney is paid by the estate, it’s no wonder that this question has caused confusion for both clients and attorneys alike. But, after years of uncertainty, it seems the Courts have reached a firm decision: the attorney represents you, the fiduciary.
MCR 5.117(A) was the first step the Michigan Supreme Court took in providing an attorney-client relationship between the fiduciary and the attorney. The rule allows for attorneys to represent only the fiduciary when filing on behalf of a fiduciary. However, following the promulgation of this rule, the Court seemed to change course in several cases, ruling that the attorney represented the estate. The confusion surrounding representation lasted for years. Then came Estate of Maki.
Maki, decided in 2017, seems to have provided the final word on this issue. In Maki, the Court explained that the language in MCL 700.5423(2)(z) grants fiduciary’s the option to hire an attorney to assist, advise, and provide legal services regarding the fiduciary’s duties. This is significantly different from the now repealed MCL 700.543. The Revised Probate Code MCL 700.543 allowed a fiduciary to hire an attorney “on behalf of the estate.” The Court made it clear that the repletion of this law, and the promulgation of MCL 700.5423(2)(z) provide that, when you, the fiduciary, hire an attorney to help you administer the estate, the attorney has a client-attorney relationship with only you and not the estate.
Thus, a fiduciary need not worry about a conflict of interest when hiring an attorney to assist in the administration of the estate. While attorneys must be careful not to create any additional attorney-client relationships with beneficiaries of the estate, the law is finally clear with regard to the fiduciary relationship: the attorney works for the fiduciary.
For assistance in performing your administrative duties please contact Spindler and Associates. We have years of experience and know the laws and court procedures for Wayne, Oakland, Livingston, Genesee and Washtenaw Counties where our attorneys have practiced for years. Contact Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 to schedule a consultation. The Oakland County law office is conveniently located in Milford, Michigan. Our service area includes these communities: Milford, Waterford, Walled Lake, Commerce, Highland, Hartland, White Lake, Commerce, South Lyon, Linden, New Hudson, Wixom, Holly, Fenton, Grand Blanc and many more.