My sister hired an attorney in Oregon that is asking for $8,000 for handling my mother's probate which includes a $3,000 fee for my sister as administrator. The land was on the market for over 500 days and could not be sold even at half of the claimed value. I am wondering if a simplified small estate affidavit could have been filed instead thus saving thousands of dollars in estate money. I have less than two weeks to contest the accounting in this matter and I live in California.
Estate Planning Attorney
I answered your re-post. Time is ticking; get a referral today or you will be stuck with the result.
If you liked this answer, click on the thumbs up or vote it best answer! Thanks. Eliz. C. A. Johnson Post Office Box 8 Danville, California 94526-0008 Legal disclaimer: I do not practice law in any state but California. As such, any responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to a general understanding of law in California and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as legal advice can only be provided in circumstances in which the attorney is able to ask questions of the person seeking legal advice and to thus gather appropriate information.
You need to re-post for an Oregon attorney.
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
I am a Michigan attorney, and not licensed in Oregon. I have reviewed the Oregon Small Estate Affidavit and statute, and it would appear that, if you knew going in that the value of the property was less than $90k, then that procedure would have worked, and it would likely have saved you a great deal of money.
It also appears, however, that when your sister started this, there was reason to believe that the property was worth significantly more than that, and thus, the small estate procedure would not have been an option. I do not think that you can second-guess that decision as being wrong, nearly two years later. (Well, perhaps you can, but I do not think it would be fair to do so.)
That gets us back to the fee. An attorney fee of $5,000 does not seem overly excessive in light of work that had to be done. Likewise, $3,000 for the administrator. Presumably, they each have time records which document the work that was done and the work appeared to be necessary, at the time.
The $8,000 is an administrative expense which comes off the top of the estate. So your share of this expense is $4,000. Your sister gets $3,000, but she would have received $1,500 of that money, anyway. The $3,000 is taxable compensation to her, and she is essentially paying for that with what would otherwise be a tax-free inheritance. In any event, your issue really is whether $4,000 is a fair price for YOU to pay, in order to get the estate administered.
That represents around 6% of the estate, if the estate is worth $60k. It represents 13% of your share of the estate. You need to decide if you want to object over 13%. It will cost time and money to object and the attorney may be able to charge more in light of the dispute. It is likely to also affect your ongoing relationship with your sister.
If you believe that these charges are clearly excessive, I would meet with an attorney to determine what the "going rate" is for probate estates in the area where the estate is being probated. If the attorney agrees that the fee is excessive, then I would contact your sister and/or the attorney and see if they are willing to negotiate downward, in light of the fact that the estate is worth so much less. If they agree, then you are done. If not, then you can always go to the judge. If you take that route, you will probably want to have an attorney represent you. It will eat into whatever amount you might otherwise recover in court. But it will also dramatically increase your chances of a recovery in the first place.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.