I am part of an estate with 2 Executors and each have their own lawyers. 4 years ago they made a billing agreement in which both firms gave their hourly rate and agreed to bill hourly. Now all of a sudden one of the attorneys bills has multiple fee rates on their bill. I think its because of different people within the firm doing the work has different rates. The other Executor never agreed nor was told about this fee hike. Is that legal? Don't they need to put it in writing and have ALL Executors agree to this? What can be done about this? Im aware hiring my own estate attorney is recommended but is there a way to solve this without it costing a lot of time and money? If I cant get an attorney of my own is there anything I can still do? What can the Executor that didn't agree to this do about this with and/or without his attorney. Im afraid his attorney wont give him the best advice because he too, has been known to be dishonest.
The Executor may wish to have his fee agreement reviewed by another New York lawyer. Specifically, some fee agreements reference the fact that attorneys' hourly fees may change (which can happen in a case like this where the estate administration has gone on for four years).. If this is not the case in this fee agreement, then the Executor may refuse to pay the additional hourly charges and bring the matter to the attention of the Surrogate's Court. The Judge will then determine whether the fee should be paid. Good luck to you.
This information is presented as a public service. It should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor considered to be the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. I am licensed in Connecticut and New York and my answers are based upon the law in those jurisdictions. My answer to any specific question would likely be different if I were to review a client's file and have the opportunity to interview the client. Accordingly, I strongly urge you to retain an attorney in your jurisdiction with respect to any legal matter.
It depends on the fee agreement. If the fee agreement provides for the new fee structure and the fee agreement was properly executed by the relevant parties then the new fees will likely be held valid. Note, that even if the fee agreement provides for increased fees the executor(s) can always attempt to renegotiate the fees with the firm. The executors may also consider terminating the firm.
You state that you prefer not to hire an attorney but given the nature of your concerns you may want to reconsider.
The fee agreement needs to be analyzed in detail. If the fee agreement provide for an increase and the increase was communicated and agreed to by the client and is reasonable then it is possible that this may be valid. On the other hand a lawyer may not unilaterally increase the hourly rate unless this was agreed to at the outset of the agreement. Also the fee agreement may provide for a range of hourly rates. To answer this I would recommend that you hire and speak to an attorney as soon as possible to review the fee agreement In detail to determine if this is possible and to analyze all of the circumstances.
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