The Personal Representative is allowing his attorney to run up outrageous legal bills against the estate in probate. What to do?

On a relatively simple estate of $250,000, the attorney fees are over $20,000 after one year and probate is not yet closed. The attorney is his friend. Personal representative is also trustee of a trust containing a house, which he is living in rent free and not distributing as called for in the trust. Can I file an objection to the attorney fees (asking for excess fees to be refunded), petition to have the personal representative replaced for mismanaging estate funds and petition to have the trustee replaced for acting in his own self-interest (instead of for all beneficiaries)? Can I do this all at once and have one hearing?

Lansing, MI -

Attorney Answers (3)

Steven D. Dunnings

Steven D. Dunnings

Family Law Attorney - Lansing, MI
Answered

I agree with what has been stated and add that the Personal Representative is required to serve upon interested parties a notice regarding attorney fees stating the anticipated frequency of payments, that a party is entitled, upon request, to a copy of each statement for services or costs, that a party may object to fees at anytime prior to the allowance of fees by the court, if the court is required to pre-approve the fees (this may depend on whether you have an informal probate proceeding as opposed to a supervised proceeding), and provide a copy of the fee agreement between the Representative and the attorney.. If you requested a statement and did not receive one, you might want to petition the court for supervised proceedings. To remove the Personal Representative, you would have to establish some breach by him/her of the fiduciary duty and I do not know if you have sufficient proof of that at this point.

Donald Joseph Quinn II

Donald Joseph Quinn II

Probate Attorney - Kansas City, MO
Answered

I think you need to retain counsel to look into these matters for you. How do you know what his fees are? Was a settlement filed? Did a Judge approve these fees or did the PR just pay them? Your own counsel would be very helpful in finding answers to these questions.

Legal disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted to practice law in the State of... more
Timothy Edward Kalamaros

Timothy Edward Kalamaros

Probate Attorney - Mishawaka, IN
Answered

You could file your own objections but you will need to hire a Michigan attorney to do it for you if you want to be effective. It sounds like these are informal proceedings and as the other lawyer suggested perhaps you should petition for conversion to supervised.

However keep in mind that what seems simple to you may involve problems that you perhaps were not aware of, as the lawyer for the estate serves the Personal Rep and has confidential communications with him or her about adminstrative matters. Those conversations will not necessarily include heirs who may be unawares of time consuming problems. This is something you and your own lawyer can investigate and if you find problems petition the court accordingly.

No legal representation exists by virtue of this answer. Consult your attorney. Licensed to practice law in... more

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