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Serving as an executor of an estate is a time-consuming and arduous task. In addition to the emotional strength required, the executor must be able to quickly digest numerous laws and responsibilities enforced by various bureaucracies and institutions. It’s a monumental task in a foreign field. Fortunately, there is help.

Along with accepting compensation for serving in the role, an executor is strongly encouraged to hire a probate attorney. An experienced probate attorney guides an executor through the process, becomes responsible for most of the difficult tasks, and helps ensure the executor satisfies all of their fiduciary responsibilities.

Probate attorney’s fees in New Jersey are paid out of the estate funds. New Jersey has not applied a statutory formula to the calculation of a probate attorney’s fees. In fact, some judges have suggested attorney’s fees based on a percentage of the estate cannot be imposed. Ultimately, in New Jersey, an appropriate estate attorney’s fee must be “reasonable” based on a multitude of factors.

Factors Used to Determine Reasonable Probate Attorney Fees in New Jersey

The factors that a judge will look at to determine whether or not an estate attorney’s fees are reasonable or unreasonable include:

  1. the amount of the estate and the amount thereof in dispute or jeopardy as to which professional services were made necessary;
  2. the nature and extent of the jeopardy or risk involved or incurred;
  3. the nature, extent, and difficulty of the services rendered;
  4. the experience and legal knowledge required, and the skill, diligence, ability and judgment shown;
  5. the time necessarily spent by the attorney in the performance of his services;
  6. the results obtained;
  7. the benefits or advantages resulting to the estate, and their importance;
  8. any special circumstances, including the standing of the attorney for integrity and skill; and
  9. the overhead expense to which the attorney has been put.

In re Bloomer’s Estate, 117 A.2d 17, 21-22 (App. Div. 1955).

As you can see, various factors influence the propriety of a probate attorney’s fees. A reasonable probate attorney’s fee should be mutually agreed to by the executor and attorney based on the division of work, nature of the estate and experience of the attorney. We will update our blog with examples of cases where probate attorney fees in New Jersey have been challenged and upheld—or reduced—as we find them!

If you have questions about probate fees in New Jersey or any other estate planning concerns contact our office for a free consultation.

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Kevin K.

I was referred to Peter after my divorce to put documents together to protect my assets. He suggested a number of documents that would help protect my children and their future. Also, he put together wills, power of attorney and living wills. I initially spoke with him on the phone, he took 30-40 minutes to understand my situation and explain the benefits of having such documents. After a week or two, I met with him in his office and signed the documents. Everything else was remote phone calls and emails. He re-explained these documents and what whom to share. I am in good hands.

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Glenn P.

Peter Klenk ESQ is a thoughtful and capable attorney who we work with on estate planning issues. His firm recently provided us with new Wills, Power of Attorneys and our instructions regarding major health issues. These documents are important for estate and life planning. Peter and his team are masters in the complexities of Estate Law. We highly recommend Peter and his Associates to provide thoughtful advice and outstanding work on these complex issues of the law. Make sure your estate planning documents are up to date, and Peter can be relied on to do an excellent job. Well done Peter!

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Peter has done our family's trust and estate work since our children were born. He is not only extremely knowledgeable and honest, but makes sure that our arrangements remain current with the changing legal landscape. I would give him my highest recommendation as a professional in his field.

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