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What to do if I do not agree with attorney fee from final accounting in estate. What rights do I have or do I just sign it?

Erie, PA |

I think the estate has been overcharged thus reducing my inheritance. What to do? If I do not sign it does that make the estate costs go up do to the estate not being settled? The lawyer is not giving the other beneficiary his last distribution until he gets my signed "family settlement agreement". But I do not feel as though I am obligated to sign something I do not agree with. How much should an estate worth $198k be charged for executor fee for two people. The lawyer is taking half of the executor fee and his attorney fee for the time spent. I have an email from him saying he was only going to take on of those. What to do?

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

Hello ...

My condolences on your situation - between a rock and a hard place ...

I have dealt with this situation many, many times in the last 22 years (not having my fees questioned, but in advising those in your exact predicament) ...

Without knowing a few more pieces of information, I can only tell you that the procedure of what is happening (not disbursing distributions until everyone signs off) is par for the course ...

Also, without knowing more, I can only tell you that your situation is rather common (someone disagreeing with a charge or an expense or a fee or a commission, but not knowing what to do ...

Most of the time, the situation is very easily rectified - it is amazing what a neutral and calm discussion and review can do. Perhaps it is just understanding the situation and being satisfied or perhaps it is quite the opposite. Either way, you will know what to do and what to expect. If the Attorney/Executor can not give you that answer (which they really cannot because of the inherent doubt in your question here), a neutral 3rd party can ...

Let me know if you need anything further ...

Good luck ...

John ...

Although we invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail, please remember that this information is for informational purposes only, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not intended to be the rendering of legal advice for specific cases, you should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel, and you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Good luck. John

Asker

Posted

What percentage should an executor take if there are two? What should each of them get? What should the attorney get? The estate lasted from june 09 to july 1, 2010. The property was sold at that time. The rest was up to the lawyer. My last distribution was in March of this year, 2012. So can he just take whatever he feels like taking or is there a certain amount he is entitled to take? What other reasons would make him take more than what he should? This part just does not make sense. What source can I use to find out what I need to know definitively. We already got the short end of the stick and I do not want to pay to find this out.

John B. Whalen Jr.

John B. Whalen Jr.

Posted

I truly understand your frustration ... Please also understand my predicsment, as i am truly trying to help you ... (a) there is no "source" which will give you your answer and (b) you are asking many questions, all of which have answers depending on the facts of each of them ... None of this is "black or white" ...

Asker

Posted

I appreciate you trying to help me. I just want to get this resolved one way or another. Since the ball is now in my court. Any insight you have to get this resolved? Thank you.

John B. Whalen Jr.

John B. Whalen Jr.

Posted

... Call me tomorrow (or Sunday) ... I would be more than happy to discuss this with you ... no charge - despite how long we talk ... I should be available most of the time ... Is that okay? ...

Asker

Posted

Can you call me right now? I dont have long distance and Im usually free at night.

John B. Whalen Jr.

John B. Whalen Jr.

Posted

Sure ... shoot me an e-mail at jw60297@me.com with your name and number and I will call now

Asker

Posted

ok sent

Posted

His overall fee must be reasonable. In addition the reasonable executor fee must be reasonable and must be split between the persons serving. They each do not get the full fee. Having said that you need to get your own estates attorney to review the situation to see if the overall fee is reasonable. After a review, then you either accept it and sign off or contest the fee in orphans court. Either way you need an estates attorney to assist you.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336 or his email address is sjfpc@comcast.net , his website is www.sjfpc.com. and his blog is <http://frommtaxes.wordpress.com/> Mr. Fromm is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Also, there are no recognized legal specialties under Pennsylvania law. Any references to a trust, estate or tax lawyer refer only to the fact that Mr. Fromm limits his practice to these areas of the law. These responses are only in the form of legal education and are intended to only provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Fromm strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received. By using this site you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction, who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances and with whom you have an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question or omitted from the question. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.

Posted

You can speak with an attorney regarding the fees. You can also speak with THE attorney regarding their fees. In California, probate fees are statutory so a $200k estate would be $7,000 for each the attorney and the executor ($14k total). In many states that is not the case. Usually fees need to be approved by the court as to their reasonableness as well.

It is typical to hold distributions until everything is approved and all paperwork is in order. It is difficult to get beneficiaries to cooperate after they have received their money. Lawyers are not free, though, and the choice of attorney is typically at the discretion of the executor. You should consider how much you believe you can save and whether it's worth it.

THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE. They are provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. The answer to question does not create an attorney-client relationship or otherwise require further consultation. Mrs. Cook is licensed to practice law throughout the state of California with offices in San Diego County. She is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States, and is also licensed to practice before the United States Tax Court. IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, please be advised that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used or relied upon, and cannot be used or relied upon, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Asker

Posted

Thanks for you input on this situation. Has his fee been approved already? If I signed this document would that not be my direct approval of his fee and proof of it to show to the court as you say. Not saying that he did not earn his fee but just wondered how one comes to the total in determining a fee. And I do not seem to be getting that answer directly.

Asker

Posted

The answer from him is what I meant.

Amanda Marie Cook

Amanda Marie Cook

Posted

Every state is different. In CA the statutory fees(s) are automatically approved. In most state, I believe the standard is a "reasonable" fee, which is usually the hourly fee for the attorney multiplied by his number of hours, but is sometimes based on the value of the estate. Depending on how egregious the fee is, you can challenge it. It may require retaining your own attorney to do. Beneficiaries are not entitled to the cheapest counsel, though. I charge $200/hr. in San Diego. However, there are people here who charge over $600/hr. for what I think is similar quality. At my old firm, I cost $300/hr. It will be your personal decision how far you want to pursue the matter. Sometimes speaking with the executor and their attorney will help. I wish you luck.

Asker

Posted

I do not know whether its egregious. He says he spent over 95 hours on this estate. How am I supposed to know how much time he actually spent on it. Im starting to realize there is nothing I can do about it nor did have any kind of voice or rights. I just got some money and that is it. Im not supposed to question anything without spending money to find that out by hiring another attorney. I already had my inheritance cut down from all these things that had to be paid including inheritance tax and the biggest asset (two houses) got sold immediately for $30k less than what it was appraised for without much time and marketing. I just know that when I die I will not put anybody else in the same predicament. So I got $40k out of the gross value of the estate of $198k. The house was never marketed. A nursing home around the corner was interested in purchasing the property but all they wanted to pay was land value of $110k. So we decided to put it up for sale and the lawyer contacted somebody that only put a for sale sign in front of the yard. It was not put into the MLS. So two people who saw the property, one i know made an offer of $140k. Well the first person to put an offer in he sold it just to get paid regardless. What happened was that nursing home around the corner made an offer of $150k and he took it. That happened all within two weeks of the property being marketed as it was with a sign out front. The property was appraised for $180k. The point im trying to make is that the lawyer got what he was gonna get regardless. And that took away from the beneficiaries. But they do not matter. I was under the impression and when I talked with another attorney was that the estate lawyer was to get a set amount on what the property sold for. So that was in 2010. And I did not get the final accounting until this year.

Asker

Posted

I forgot to say that all of a sudden that nursing home had more funds to pay to buy the property. As I mentioned before all they wanted to pay was land value but then all of a sudden they could pay more.

Asker

Posted

All I can say is that Im not very happy about the whole situation regardless of the fact that I got some money out of the deal. For which that is the consensus is that you get some money thrown your way and you are supposed to happy but how can you when somebody is only working for himself and not looking out for the beneficiaries too.

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