A New York Probate Lawyer said that, in this estate, there are two separate proceedings to fix legal fees. In the first, the executor, the decedent’s nephew, petitions to fix and determine the reasonable legal fee and disbursements to be awarded to his former counsel, at an amount less than the $14,200 in legal fees and $1,415.37 in disbursements billed and sought by the said counsel. The counsel cross petition for an order fixing his fees and disbursements in the billed amount. The second proceeding pursuant to SCPA 2110, commenced by him, seeks an award of $9,590, including $340 in disbursements, for legal services rendered to a former client, the decedent’s daughter-in-law. The latter opposes the petition and cross-petitions to fix and determine his reasonable attorney’s fees and disbursements contending, inter alia, that the legal fees, to the extent valid, should be borne by the estate. The parties agreed to submit the issues in each proceeding on the papers, without a hearing.
A New York Will Lawyer said that, the decedent died on August 4, 2006. Letters testamentary issued on October 30, 2006. The decedent’s daughter-in-law and the decedent’s two grandchildren, the decedent’s only distributees, each receive one-third of the residuary estate. The share of each grandchild is to be held in trust until that grandchild reaches the age of 30 years. Although the counsel’s representation of the executor in connection with this estate commenced on or about August 11, 2006 upon the filing of the petition for letters testamentary, the executor did not execute a retainer agreement, setting an hourly rate of $250, until January 14, 2007. The probate petition indicated that the estate consisted of personal property valued at $137,000 and certain Bronx realty valued at $500,000. Thereafter, the executor filed an affidavit increasing the value of the personal property to $154,360.56 and the realty to $569,000.
A Bronx Estate Administration Lawyer said that, the counsel’s legal bills reveal that as of the date of the filing of the probate petition, he was in possession of a deed of the Bronx realty which was executed by the decedent on May 21, 2000, over six years prior to her death. The deed conveyed the realty to the decedent’s daughter-in-law while reserving to the decedent a life estate. Upon learning of the decedent’s death, the attorney who prepared and oversaw the execution of the deed provided it to him, who included the value of the realty in the probate petition. Following the admission of the will to probate, the executor and the counsel began collecting assets; in particular, they sought a date of death appraisal of the Bronx realty and personal property contained therein, and contacted brokers in order to sell the realty. The counsel’s bill reflects his involvement in meetings at the Bronx realty with the executor and appraisers, in obtaining brokers and receiving proposals from interested buyers and in drafting contracts of sale, although no closing ever occurred. During this time, it appears that disputes arose between the executor and the decedent’s daughter-in-law or her children concerning the sale of certain personal property, and the sales price of the Bronx realty. In addition, when the decedent’s granddaughter reached the age of 30, she requested through her mother a $10,000 distribution and, in response, the executor sent $6,000 instead of the $10,000 requested. These events prompted a January 3, 2008 letter from the counsel to the executor stating, inter alia, that he concurred with her recent rejection of an offer on the Bronx realty, and the executor should issue a check in the requested amount to the granddaughter and provide him and her with an accounting and cancelled checks for all expenses.