A New York Probate Lawyer said in this accounting proceeding are the issues of attorney fees and accountant fees. The Public Administrator also seeks approval of commissions. In addition, the Public Administrator asks for approval to disallow the claims of several hospitals, various healthcare corporations and two insurance corporations on the grounds that each claimant has failed to submit documentary evidence sufficient to substantiate any such claim and failed to complete and return the Affidavit of Claim provided to each claimant by the Public Administrator. The Public Administrator also asks for authorization to distribute the sum of $1,781.28 to the New York State Comptroller’s Office for the benefit of the unknown holder in due course of a money judgment entered by the First District Court of Nassau County in favor of a bank. Lastly, the Public Administrator asks to be released from the surety bond.
A New York Will Lawyer said the decedent man died intestate as a resident of Nassau County. Letters of Estate Administration were issued to the Public Administrator. The decedent was survived by three siblings. The summary statement shows charges to the accounting party of $30,141.29.
With respect to the issue of attorney fees, the court bears the ultimate responsibility for approving legal fees that are charged to an estate and has the discretion to determine what constitutes reasonable compensation for legal services rendered in the course of an estate. While there is no hard and fast rule to calculate reasonable compensation to an attorney in every case, the Surrogate Court is required to exercise his or her authority with reason, proper discretion and not arbitrarily.
In evaluating the cost of legal services, the court may consider a number of factors. These include the time spent; the complexity of the questions involved; the nature of the services provided; the amount of estate 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. In discharging this duty to review fees, the court cannot apply a selected few factors which might be more favorable to one position or another but must strike a balance. Also, the legal fee must bear a reasonable relationship to the size of the estate. A sizeable estate permits adequate compensation, but nothing beyond that. Moreover, the size of the estate can operate as a limitation on the fees payable, without constituting an adverse reflection on the services provided.
The burden with respect to establishing the reasonable value of legal services performed rests on the attorney performing those services. Contemporaneous records of legal time spent on estate matters are important to the court in determining whether the amount of time spent was reasonable for the various tasks performed.
Queens Probate Lawyers said with respect to accountants’ fees, normally, an accountant’s services are not compensable out of estate assets unless there are unusual circumstances that require the expertise of an accountant. The fee for such services is generally held to be included in the fee of the attorney for the fiduciary. The purpose of this rule is to avoid duplication. Where the legal fees do not include compensation for services rendered by the accountant, there is no duplication and the legal fee is not automatically reduced by the accounting fee.
A Staten Island Probate Lawyer said in this case, the attorney has supplied the court with an affirmation of services and it shows that the attorney rendered approximately fifty-three (53) hours of legal services of a partner, associate and paralegal at various hourly rates. The total value of the legal services rendered by the attorney’s firm exceeds $9,800.00. Due to the modest size of the estate, the attorney seeks a fee in the reduced amount of $2,283.75, of which $500.00 remains unpaid. The services provided by counsel include preparation of petition for letters of estate administration and related documents, preparation of final account and related papers, assisting the Public Administrator in his search to identify the holder of the outstanding money judgment against the decedent, telephone conferences with the decedent’s family members and employees of the Public Administrator’s office. The court notes that the affirmation of legal services erroneously recites that the work to be performed by counsel will include various correspondence and conferences with the court-appointed guardian ad litem and review of the report of the Guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem was not appointed in this proceeding. The contemporaneous time records annexed to the affirmation of legal services do not include charges for these services, and, thus it appears the estate, in fact, was not billed for these services.
Nassau County Probate Lawyers said considering all these factors, the court fixes the fee of counsel for the Public Administrator in the amount of $2,283.75, of which $500.00 remains unpaid, as fair and proper compensation for the services he rendered.
The court has also been asked to review the accountant’s fee. The accountant has submitted an affidavit of services requesting a fee of $575.00, all of which remains unpaid. The court notes that there is a discrepancy between the amounts of the fee reflected it the accountant’s affidavit and the citation. The citation issued asks for approval of accountant’s fees in the amount of $1,125.00 of which $550 has been paid. The affidavit sworn to on May 28, 2009 indicates that the accountant’s total fee is $575.00, which is the accountant’s fee for preparation of the decedent’s final income tax return. The work performed by the accountant was not duplicative of the services rendered by the attorney, and the requested amount for these services is reasonable. The court approves the fee in the amount of $575.00, all of which remains unpaid.
With respect to the claims of the Hospital in the amount of $250.00; the Healthcare Corporation in the amount of $1,004.89; the University Medical Center in the amount of $184.50; the Insurance Company in the amount of $250.00; Management Services in the amount of $5,625.66, and the Cable company in the amount of $162.52, the Public Administrator asks the court to approve the disallowance of such claims. All of the above-named claimants were cited and failed to appear on the return date of the citation. Based upon the failure of each claimant to substantiate their respective claim and the default on the return date of the accounting citation, each of the above claims is disallowed.
The Public Administrator also asks the court to authorize him to distribute the sum of $1,781.28 to the New York State Comptroller’s Office for the benefit of the unknown holder in due course of a money judgment entered by the First District Court of Nassau County in favor of a Bank, a judgment creditor of the decedent’s estate. The Public Administrator’s attorneys conducted multiple telephone conversations with six different entities, among whom the judgment was believed to have been transferred. It appears that the Public Administrator conducted a diligent, albeit, unsuccessful attempt to identify the present holder of the outstanding money judgment. Accordingly, the Public Administrator is authorized to distribute the sum of $1,781.28 to the New York State Comptroller’s Office. Commissions are approved subject to audit. The surety is released and discharged. The Public Administrator is authorized to distribute the balance of the net estate in equal shares to each of the three siblings.
Probate proceedings are costly and require time and expertise of various people. If you are contemplating on pursuing a will contest, consult the Nassau County Will Contest Lawyer and the Nassau County Probate Attorney. You can also ask for a Nassau County Estate Administration Lawyer from Stephen Bilkis and Associates.