Skip to Content

We are a Veteran Owned Business, providing 20% discounts for Veterans, First Responders, Elementary and High School teachers. Please contact us to set up a phone or Zoom meeting. Taking care of you and your family, It's What We Do!

Montgomery County Orphan’s Court Judge Scrutinizes Executor and Attorney Fees

Posted on Fri Jan 16, 2015, on Fees

Orphan’s Court Scrutinizes Executor and Attorney Fees

Most Recently Updated July 8, 2018

Will Contests

Orphan’s Court Scrutinizes Executor and Attorney Fees

We posted recently about attorney’s fees in Pennsylvania. Let’s take a look at how a dispute over fees actually plays out.

Montgomery County Case Example

A Montgomery County Orphans’ Court case, DeVitis Estate, is a cautionary tale for executors. It shows what judges will do when faced with unexplained fees. In this case, the deceased named her daughter executor of the estate. Due to perceived foul play, two beneficiaries of the estate requested an audit of the estate and then filed objections to the accounting.

One objection involved the executors and attorney’s fees paid by the estate. In this instance, the residuary was insufficient to cover the assessed fees. To pay for the fee, the executrix sold off the decedent’s residence and used the sale money to cover these expenses. The challenging beneficiaries’ inheritance was directly reduced by this maneuver.

What went wrong?

At trial, the executor failed to provide evidence justifying her commission or the attorney’s fees. This did not mean she was entitled to no fee, as an executor is statutorily entitled to reasonable and just compensation. However, without a detailed explanation of the fee, the judge simply assumed the estate was plain vanilla. The judge concluded the executor and attorney did no special work above and beyond that of a typical estate.

If you read the previous post on fees, you may remember the Johnson fee schedule. It’s an unofficial schedule attached to a Delaware County Orphans’ Court Judge’s opinion from 1983. It remains widely used by attorneys and judges as an estate administration fee benchmark. The executrix in DeVitis learned exactly how persuasive that benchmark remains.

How did the Judge come to his conclusion?

The judge calculated the Johnson executor and attorney fee. Then compared it with the fee charged in the case. Both the Executor and Attorney had been paid 50% more than the suggested Johnson fee. Since no evidence was provided to explain the increased fee, the enhanced fee was reduced. Instead, the fees were set in accordance with Johnson and the executrix had to personally repay the estate both her and the attorney’s excess fees. This typical and costly result should give executors pause at the outset to ensure the estate’s attorney is knowledgeable and experienced in probate matters.

If you need assistance with probate or with developing your Estate Plan, please call one of our Probate Lawyers or Estate Planning Attorneys for a free consultation. We have Estate Planning Attorneys in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida.

More Probate Questions?

Fees are only part of the overall probate process. By all means, if you wish to learn more, please read my more detailed article, The Probate Process All You Need to Know.

In Conclusion: Orphan’s Court Scrutinizes Executor and Attorney Fees

I hope that this article was helpful in explaining fees. Further, I included links to even more detailed information on my website. Therefore, please contact me and let me know how I did. Certainly, your comments and questions are welcome!

Let our Probate Lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. To begin with, call to speak to one of our experienced Probate Attorneys.  By all means, our lawyers are ready to answer your questions. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Ultimately our goal is to make the process as painless as possible!

Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Litigation, It’s All We Do

Tags:

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Probate Attorney, Probate Fees, Probate Lawyer

Peter KlenkPeter Klenk

What Our clients are saying

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Sharon A.

We recently used Peter's firm to update our wills and trusts. We found he and his staff to be well-informed, professional and highly efficient. And equally valuable, Peter explains the law in terms that a layperson can readily understand.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Qiana Wright

Great friendly staff

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Rachel Roney

Peter has done a great job with the estate planning for my father. He is very thorough and patient as we, the family need to make decisions.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

Sharon S.

I contacted Peter through his website using the free consultation link for a question regarding a will. While I was expecting only a few minutes, it was a lengthy conversation. He made sure he understood the situation by asking many questions before offering advice. He then went through my options and results of each one. He left it up to me to decide if I wanted to proceed and did not push me toward one or another. His website has very useful information which I definitely researched before I called him. While I decided not to proceed at this time, I feel I had enough information to make that decision. I would not hesitate to hire him should I need to in the future.

Klenk Law Logo
Stars

B.A.

Peter Klenk and his associates are responsive and professional - It is a pleasure to work with their team. If you have needs in estate planning or administration, they are the firm to go to in the Philadelphia area!

Let us put our expertise to work for you.

Free consultation within 24 hours.