In a probate proceeding, Respondent appeals from so much of an order of the Surrogate’s Court, dated April 13, 2005, as, upon its application to fix an attorney’s fee, fixed its fee at the principal sum of $109,620, inclusive of reimbursement of a handwriting expert’s fee of $60,884, and directed the petitioner to refund to Plaintiff the sum of $25,391, and the latter cross-appeals from so much of the same order as partially dismissed her counterclaim, in effect, to reduce the sum owed as reimbursement to the petitioner for the handwriting expert’s fee.The order is modified, on the law and as a matter of discretion, by (1) deleting the provision thereof awarding the petitioner attorney and expert fees in the sum of $109,620 and substituting therefor a provision awarding the petitioner attorney and expert fees in the sum of $58,736, and (2) deleting the provision thereof directing the petitioner to reimburse the respondent the sum of $25,391, and substituting therefor a provision directing the petitioner to reimburse the respondent the sum of $76,275; as so modified, the order is affirmed insofar as appealed and cross-appealed from, without costs or disbursements.
It is settled that the determination of a reasonable attorney’s fee in a matter concerning an estate lies within the sound discretion of the Surrogate’s Court. Where, as here, a dispute arises over the terms of a retainer agreement, the responsibility of interpreting the agreement rests with the Surrogate’s Court. In cases of doubt and ambiguity, an agreement between a client and the attorney must be construed most favorably to the client. Here, the Surrogate’s Court properly construed the subject retainer agreement between the petitioner and the respondent.
However, Respondent is correct that the amount of $60,884 which was included in the principal sum awarded to her as reimbursement for the handwriting expert’s fee was excessive and unreasonable. In our opinion, the appropriate and reasonable amount for the services of the handwriting expert under the facts and circumstances of this case should have been $10,000. Thus, the total award to her should have been $58,736. Since it has already paid $135,011 to respondent, she is entitled to be reimbursed the sum of $76,275.