The money was then divided. In order to settle the estate, the way my mother had wished, I am now responsible for the taxes, bequests and fees. I have also paid the lawyer thousands of dollars, I asked for a proper bill and wasn't given any itemization. What can I do?
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I'm a Florida guy; but I expect that every state's bar association has a fee dispute mechanism in place. Contact the NY Bar and follow up with them.
Dennis Phillips is an attorney and financial planner based in South Florida. He is a member of the Florida bar, he holds the nation-wide Series 65 Investment Advisor license, and holds an insurance license in Florida and Virginia. Disclaimer: The response above is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, would significantly alter the above response.
The first thing I would do is communicate with the lawyer. Indicate that you are not satisfied with what was done, and the reason why. If you were the only beneficiary, then there may be nothing wrong with the way the trust was administered. I would give the attorney a chance to correct anything that was not properly done. I would also document everything that you did.
If the attorney is not willing to correct any deficiencies, then I personally would go to another attorney for a consultation. I would describe what took place and determine whether or not the attorney's actions were proper. If that attorney agrees that the actions (or inactions) were not appropriate, then I would file a bar grievance.
Many Bar Associations will not follow up if a grievance is essentially a fee dispute. This sounds like it could be more than that. But a grievance is a serious matter, and I would not assume that something was inappropriate without taking extra steps.
For example, if you were charged a flat fee for services, then it might be okay to provide a less detailed statement. The attorney should be able/willing to provide more detail, if asked, however.
You have made some allegations that could be very serious, or they could be easily explained, depending on the circumstances. Your summary is too short to determine precisely what has taken place.
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Attorney Frederick is correct. Hopefully, there is simply a misunderstanding which your attorney can address. If not, please follow Attorney Frederick's suggested course of action. Good luck to you.
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According to your post, none of the bequests were made or fees paid. Thus, you are not looking at a situation in which you must seek reimbursement from people whose bequests were already paid. The legal fee situation depends upon your retainer agreement with the lawyer. You state that "I" am now responsible for .... This is not factually accurate. If the money was not yet distributed, you have no issue. The taxes are paid on a pro rata share and simply calulate and take off the top. If the money was already distributed to the benefeciaires, this poses a much bigger problem for you. Talk to your lawyer and review these issues. If no money has been distributed, do not distribute until the expenses are paid and you have held a reserv for unexpected expenses.