In Pennsylvania, a probate attorney’s fees are paid out of the estate funds. As part of the executor’s responsibility in managing an estate, state laws require that the attorney’s fee is “fair and reasonable.” Let’s take a look at what fair and reasonable looks like in the context of a probate attorney’s fees.
Serving as executor of a Pennsylvania estate is a difficult and time-consuming 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.
Executors are strongly encouraged to hire a probate attorney. An experienced Pennsylvania probate attorney will guide an executor through the probate process, takes responsibility for most of the difficult tasks, and helps to ensure the executor satisfies all of their fiduciary responsibilities.
The Legislature doesn’t set probate attorney’s fees in Pennsylvania. Any challenge to the “fair and reasonable” requirement will be left to the discretion of each county’s Orphan’s Court. While the Pennsylvania Legislature has resisted the ease of adopting a percentage based fee schedule, some Orphan’s Court judges have supplied some helpful precedent. Pennsylvania probate judges regularly apply a schedule attached to a 1983 case opinion, the Johnson Estate.
The Johnson Estate executor fee schedule is posted below. It’s a benchmark many judges have recognized or referenced over the past 30 years when an attorney’s fees have been challenged. Rather then balancing countless factors, many judges first examine how the claimed fee compares to the schedule in Johnson. This schedule therefore serves as the most intelligible answer to an appropriate executor’s fee in Pennsylvania.
This schedule represents by no means what an estate must, or should pay. Ultimately, the executor and the attorney must decide the fee based on the work involved with that individual estate.
Regardless, the fee agreement should detail the work to be done by the executor and the attorney, including the division of responsibilities. The fee should be calculated based on the size of the estate, responsibility incurred by the attorney, the complexity of the estate and experience of the attorney. Each estate is different, understanding the responsibilities of the attorney and their background will ensure you make an informed decision using Johnson as a guidepost.
|Min. Marginal Value ($)||Max Marginal Value ($)||% Fee Allowed||Marginal Fee||Total Fee|
|00.01||25,000.00||@ 7%||$ 1,750.00||$ 1,750.00|
|25,000.01||50,000.00||@ 6%||$ 1,500.00||$ 3,250.00|
|50,000.01||100,000.00||@ 5%||$ 2,500.00||$ 5,750.00|
|100,000.01||200,000.00||@ 4%||$ 4,000.00||$ 9,750.00|
|200,000.01||1,000,000.00||@ 3%||$ 24,000.00||$ 33,750.00|
|1,000,000.01||2,000,000.00||@2%||$ 20,000.00||$ 53,750.00|
|2,000,000.01||3,000,000.00||@ 1½%||$ 15,000.00||$ 68,750.00|
|3,000,000.01||4,000,000.00||@ 1%||$ 10,000.00||$ 78,750.00|
|4,000,000.01||5,000,000.00||@ ½%||$ 5,000.00||$ 83,750.00|
|½%||Regular Commission P.O.D. Bonds and Trust Funds||3½%||Transfer Joint Accounts||3½%||Assets Which Are Taxable at One Half Value|
|1%||Non-Probate Assets up to $1,000,000||1%||Non-Probate Assets||Joint Accounts Fully Taxable: Full Commission|
If you have questions about probate attorney fees or any other estate planning concerns contact our office for a free consultation.