LEO: Estate Administration: U.S. Attorney LE Op. 1159
Estate Administration: U.S. Attorney Serving as an Administratrix
Under a Will Naming the U.S. Government Beneficiary.
January 4, 1989
You advise that you are an Assistant United States Attorney who will act
as executrix or administratrix for a certain estate naming the United
States of America as sole beneficiary. As administratrix you would not act
as counsel. Furthermore, your office has retained a private attorney to
probate the will and to handle all attorney functions.
You wish to know whether any conflict of interest or other ethical
violations may arise as a result of your relationship as the employee of
the sole beneficiary in a will and performing your obligations as
administratrix of the estate.
The Committee opines that your acting as administratrix on behalf of the
beneficiary, your employer, does not present a conflict of interest under
the limited facts you have presented in your inquiry in light of the
applicable disciplinary rules and ethical considerations. Since the
beneficiary has engaged private counsel, it appears that no attorney-
client relationship exists between you and your employer, and, as you have
stated, you will not be in an advisory capacity as administratrix, nor
will you act as counsel for the beneficiary. The Committee would advise
that while no apparent ethical violation exists under the facts of your
inquiry, we cannot opine as to whether statutory law may prohibit a
federal government employee from acting as administratrix or executrix of
an estate which names the United States of America the sole beneficiary.
If a situation should arise in which an attorney-client relationship may
exist, you may provide the Committee with such additional pertinent
information from which we can make a determination as to whether a
conflict of interest exists.
Committee Opinion January 4, 1989