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I believe my probate lawyer for the estate is charging excessive fees. If I challenge and lose, what can I expect to pay?

Naugatuck, CT |
Filed under: Probate

The st 7336171 states that the estate lawyer can charge me addditional fees if I ask the judge to review his bill. If I challenge that his fees are excessive and lose what can I expect to pay in addition as the statuate says he can then charge me additional fees for challenging the bill which I believe to be excessive? the case is in fl.

Attorney Answers 2


Unless you are a Florida trusts and estates lawyer, you probably don't have the background to determine whether the fees are excessive. Therefore, before filing a motion challenging the bill, it would be well worth paying a local T&E lawyer to review the bill. That lawyer also should be able to tell you your potential risk if you do file a challenge. Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law Foundation, former Chair NJ State Bar Association Elder and Disabilities Law Section, Member Board of Consultors of NJSBA Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Section, Vice Chair Special Needs Law Section of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Master of Laws (L.L.M.) in Taxation from N.Y.U. School of Law.

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Mr. Friedman has given good advice. You haven't stated whether the fee is based on a number of hours times an hourly fee. What is a reasonable hourly fee is likely to be based on what large successful law firms in the state charge per hour. In some states probate work done by paralegals under the supervision of a lawyer can be billed at the lawyer's hourly rate. This is a big disadvantage to the client of hourly billing. It is one reason that my firm of Reed & Mansfield in Nevada offers a flat rate for most uncontested probates.

If the fee charged is a percentage of the probate estate there may be state statutes which regulate what can be charged without special application to the court.

The retainer agreement you signed in the beginning is also important in evaluating the claim of excessive fees.

Almost all judges used to practice law and some judges have an open mind to going back into the practice of law. This can create a feeling of identity with the lawyer whose fees you are challenging. This emphasizes both the importance of picking your lawyer carefully and discussing fees carefully at the beginning and of consulting with an local lawyer about your chances of prevailing on a claim of excessive fees.

That said, there are those minority of cases where a claimed legal fee is outrageous enough to persuade a judge to give you relief. So, by all means consult with a local lawyer. Your state bar may have a list of lawyers who will charge a modest consultation fee.

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If I could spin out a scenario and ask your opinion. A 19 year old dies with only personal possession assets such as laptop, a few guitars and an amp, an XBox, $200 in the bank and a $1500 motorcycle. He has unpaid medical expenses of nearly $12,000. What would be involved for an attorney to settle such an insolvent estate, either in a suggested flat rate or perhaps a number of billable hours?

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