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Petitioner Questions Legal Fees for Estate Administration

In this proceeding, the two estate administrators contested to the final accounting of the last will and testament of a man. They contested to the two stipulations signed by the interested parties to the accounting. The court previously issued a decision in which the attorneys of the complainants were directed to submit an executed copy of the second stipulation and their affidavits of legal services. The sole issue here is the approval of legal fees.

Based on records, in evaluating the cost of legal services, the court may consider a number of factors which includes the time spent, the complexity of the questions involved, the nature of the services provided, the amount and complexity of litigation required, the amounts involved and the benefit resulting from the execution of such services, the lawyer’s experience and reputation and the customary fee charged by the bar for similar services.

The affidavits filed with the court that reflect legal services provided by three different law firms, each of which will be addressed separately.

Consequently, the counsel of the first law firm filed an affidavit of services with billing statements and time sheets attached. He also filed a supplemental affidavit of services. The affidavit of services clearly clarifies the complex administration issues raised in connection with deceased assets, including the taxation of non-probate assets. It sets forth each of the goals and accomplishments of legal counsel on behalf of the fiduciaries, which ultimately led to a settlement among the parties as well as a satisfactory resolution with the taxing authorities. It was determined by the parties that the assets legal fees would be fixed at a total of $75,000.00, with $50,000.00 payable to the law firm and $25,000.00 payable to the counsel for the opponent. It was further agreed that the fixed amount of the fee payable to the law firm would not include services rendered in connection with a contested probate proceeding, an audit of the assets tax returns, or objections to the account. Rather, the services would be billed at agreed upon hourly rates. The preliminary executor and the opponent agreed to be responsible for his or her proportionate share of the fees. The record reflects that the federal estate tax return was the subject of an examination, the state estate tax return was subjected to audit, and objections were filed to the account. As a result, Bronx Probate Lawyers said the properties sustained had additional legal fees.
The counsel of the first firm further filed a supplemental affidavit of services, in support of the legal fee of $1,500.00 plus disbursements paid to the second law firm for services rendered in connection with the ancillary validation of deceased’s will in Florida. Services provided by Florida attorneys includes the preparation and submission of the petition for an ancillary proceeding in Florida, the Florida estate tax return, an inventory, a petition for discharge and a personal representative’s deed. The court approves the fee paid to Florida counsel in the amount of $1,500.00 and the related costs, all of which have been paid and legal fee to the attorney of the deceased wife.

In his supplemental affidavit, the counsel of the first firm notes that the legal fee paid to the attorney of the deceased’s wife, was not payable from the assets but rather by attorney’s client, who was the opponent to the account. Moreover, a New York Probate Lawyer said the fee will not be reviewed by the court.

Consequently, the decision has been settled. The attorneys for the administrators are directed to file an affidavit bringing the account down to date within 45 days of the date of the decision, after which the verdict will be signed if it is found to be in order.

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