Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Seventh Circuit Holds Estate Administrator May Not Litigate Claims Pro Se on Behalf of Estate When Administrator is Not Sole Beneficiary of Estate

Per Malone v. Nielson, 474 F.3d 934 (7th Cir. Jan. 22, 2007):

Before turning to the merits of the IDEA and § 1983 claims, we must address the threshold issue of whether the Malones may continue to litigate this action. The Malones brought this action “on behalf of Anthony DeLance Malone, deceased, by and through their attorney....” R.60 at 3. However, the Malones are no longer represented by counsel, but are proceeding pro se in this appeal. Although individuals have a right to proceed pro se, see 28 U.S.C. § 1654; Navin v. Park Ridge Sch. Dist. 64, 270 F.3d 1147, 1149 (7th Cir.2001) (per curiam), administrators do not act on behalf of themselves, but on behalf of all of the beneficiaries of an estate. Consequently, if the administrator is not the sole beneficiary of the estate, then he or she may not represent the estate in court. See Shepherd v. Wellman, 313 F.3d 963, 970 (6th Cir.2002); Iannaccone v. Law, 142 F.3d 553, 559 (2d Cir.1998).FN2

In the present case, Lance died intestate and, under the Illinois rules of intestate succession, the estate must be distributed to the parents and siblings of the decedent in equal parts. See 755 ILCS 5/2-1. The Malones, as nonlawyers, may not represent the interests of Lance's four brothers and sisters. See Mosely, 434 F.3d at 532; Navin, 270 F.3d at 1149. Therefore they cannot proceed pro se on any claim in which the estate is the real party in interest.

FN2. This court has not decided whether an administrator or executor who is the sole beneficiary of an estate without creditors may appear pro se on its behalf.


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