If estate attorney chooses to bill hourly rather than percentage of the estate would a judge review the time records?

Asked over 1 year ago - Allentown, PA

Executor/attorney/50% beneficiary for a relativley simple estate chose to bill the estate hourly rather than take a percentage oif the estate value. The houlry came out quite a bit higher but in reviewing the time records submitted as support for the bill there are many charges that are for work that would not be done by an attorney at the rate of $275 per hour in normall cases(copying, picking up forms and mailing letters, etc) When the accounting goes to orphans court in PA, would a judge review the time records since she is being paiid houlry? It would seem that the judge should review them since they are using that as the justification for their fee. They chose not tot take apercentage and so it would not seem appropriate to use the percentage guidelines in a situation like this.

Attorney answers (3)

  1. John B. Whalen Jr.

    Pro

    Contributor Level 14

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Hello ...

    There is no set way for Attorneys to bill in an Estate. The "percentage" method is a "guideline" and not law. Not taking a percentage, but, rather, billing hourly was the agreement.

    Unless the fee is outrageous, I highly doubt a judge would do anything with it.

    I am sorry this doesn't answer your question the way you seemed to have it answered.

    John

    *
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  2. James Paul Coletta

    Contributor Level 8

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . If I understand correctly, the attorney for the estate is also the executor and a 50% beneficiary. Some courts frown upon an attorney/executor billing for clerical work at the attorney's hourly rate.

    You have a right to object to the fee as unreasonable. Please check with a local probate attorney to discuss this matter.
    I agree with my colleague that there is no requirement to bill an estate on a percentage basis.

    The advice given is general in nature and consultation with a lawyer is neccssary.
  3. James P. Frederick

    Contributor Level 20

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Perhaps. Under most state laws, an attorney is entitled to "reasonable compensation," in light of all the circumstances of the case. Whether the fee is reasonable in your case is impossible to say, without knowing a whole lot more of the facts. It appears under your facts that the attorney is also a beneficiary for the estate? If that is the case, then the attorney is essentially paying for half the fee himself/herself, because the fee comes off the top of the estate.

    One thing you can check is whether the PA State Bar offers a mediation service for attorney fee disputes. If so, that might be a quick and relatively inexpensive way to deal with this issue. I would also point out that it is unlikely the court will review the attorney fees, hourly or otherwise, unless you ask it to do so.

    Please see here, for more information: http://www.utbf.com/trust-estate/2010/01/execut...

    and here: http://evans-legal.com/dan/estfees.html

    James Frederick

    *** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and... more

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