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Court Determines What Constitutes Reasonable Legal Compensation


Probate Lawyers said in this probate proceeding in which the successor trustees of a living trust petitioned for the judicial settlement of their account. A Petition was filed by the attorney for the successor trustees, filed an Appeal, as limited by his brief, from so much of a decree of the Surrogate’s Court, Kings County, dated May 1, 2009, as, upon a decision of the same court dated November 7, 2008, fixing his attorney’s fee in the principal sum of only $28,698, directed him to refund the sum of $25,437 to the trust.

A Kings County Probate lawyer said that the Court made a ruling stating that the Surrogate “bears the ultimate responsibility to decide what constitutes reasonable legal compensation” in estate matters regardless of whether the parties agreed to the amount of legal fees. This was based on the leading case of Matter of Verplanck, 151 A.D.2d 767, 767, 543 N.Y.S.2d 138; and the case of Matter of Phelan, 173 A.D.2d 621, 570 N.Y.S.2d 202).

An Estate Lawyer said that here, the Surrogate’s Court providently exercised its discretion in fixing the appellant’s attorney’s fee in the principal sum of only $28,698, and directing him to return to the trust the sum of $25,437, representing an overpayment. The Surrogate properly considered the relevant factors, and its emphasis on the size of the trust estate was warranted under the circumstances

Thus, the Court ruled ordering that the decree is affirmed insofar as appealed from, with cost. On the other hand, the Court found that the appellant’s remaining contentions are without merit.

In a similar case a probate proceeding which was filed by the successor administrator to judicially settle the final accounts of an estate of the deceased. The petitioner administrator filed the petition for the settlement of the case, and later filed an appeal, as limited by his brief, from so much of a decree of the Surrogate’s Court, Kings County, dated December 3, 2009, as, after a nonjury trial, denied his objections to and judicially settled the final account of a former administrator appointed by the court to the estate of the deceased, and granted the objections of oppositor, who seeks to prevent the allowance of the last will and testament of the deceased for probate, to his amended final account.

Westchester County Probate Lawyers said that the court held that “in an accounting proceeding, the party submitting an account has the ultimate burden of demonstrating that he or she has fully accounted for all of the assets of the estate. This has been the ruling in the previous cases of Matter of Tract, 284 A.D.2d 543, 727 N.Y.S.2d 148 and Matter of Schnare, 191 A.D.2d 859, 860, 594 N.Y.S.2d 827). “While the party submitting objections bears the burden of coming forward with evidence to establish that the account is inaccurate or incomplete, upon satisfaction of that showing the accounting party must prove, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, that his or her account is accurate and complete”.

Likewise, it was stated that on appeal from a decree entered after a nonjury trial, this Court “may render the judgment it finds warranted by the facts, taking into account in a close case ‘the fact that the [Surrogate] had the advantage of seeing the witnesses’ “

Suffolk County Probate Lawyers said that upon our review of the record, we find no basis to set aside the determination of the Surrogate that the successor administrator, the petitioner in this case, failed to come forward with credible evidence to establish that the final account of the original administrator, who became incapacitated by reason of demise, was inaccurate or incomplete.

Thus, the Court ordered that the decree is affirmed insofar as appealed from, with one bill of costs payable by the appellant personally. The parties’ remaining contentions are without merit.

Here in Stephen Bilkis and Associates, our Kings County Estate Lawyers are here to provide you quality legal service which will help you with your legal issues. Contact them now and narrate the facts surrounding your concern. For matters involving probate of last will and testament, our Kings County Probate Attorneys are always ready and available to serve you. Call us now for more details.

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