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A Guide to Pennsylvania Probate Attorney Fees

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.

What are “Fair and Reasonable” Probate Attorney Fees in Pennsylvania?

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;

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.

Probate Attorney Fees in Pennsylvania Can Be Determined by a Percentage, a Typical Hourly Rate, or a Flat Rate for All Work Involved.

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 AllowedMarginal FeeTotal Fee
00.0125,000.00@ 7%$ 1,750.00$ 1,750.00
25,000.0150,000.00@ 6%$ 1,500.00$ 3,250.00
50,000.01100,000.00@ 5%$ 2,500.00$ 5,750.00
100,000.01200,000.00@ 4%$ 4,000.00$ 9,750.00
200,000.011,000,000.00@ 3%$ 24,000.00$ 33,750.00
1,000,000.012,000,000.00@2%$ 20,000.00$ 53,750.00
2,000,000.013,000,000.00@ 1½%$ 15,000.00$ 68,750.00
3,000,000.014,000,000.00@ 1%$ 10,000.00$ 78,750.00
4,000,000.015,000,000.00@ ½%$ 5,000.00$ 83,750.00
½%Regular Commission P.O.D. Bonds and Trust Funds3½%Transfer Joint Accounts3½%Assets Which Are Taxable at One Half Value
1%Non-Probate Assets up to $1,000,0001%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.

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Peter Klenk & Associates is my go-to firm for estate planning and advice in probate and estate administration. Peter and his attorneys are top-notch and exceptionally responsive. Peter has the knack of being able to explain extremely complex tax and estate planning issues in a manner that clients are easily able to understand and comprehend allowing them to confidently make important decisions.

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Klenk Law is an exceptional practice. Their fine lawyers and staff team up to produce excellent results for their clients. They excel at explaining the often cryptic laws and policies that govern estate planning right down to the complexities of the various "trust" frameworks. Peter himself manages each client together with his great team, and he has a rare quality to be both a walking encyclopedia of planning minutia and also one of the most likable lawyers I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. He is truly generous in intellect and in his personal approach to getting the "big picture" for complex family structures. I trust him implicitly to help me make the right choices for the future. In short, Klenk Law is a gem of a firm.

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When it came down to picking the right attorney to handle my affairs, I knew right away it was this firm. From speaking to their secretary to speaking to Peter I knew I was making the right decision. After only a few mins Peter knew right away what I was looking for and handled all my questions professionally and even gave me great feedback that put my mind at ease. All that without even giving a single penny! So of course I hired him! So far so good...

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AWESOME LAWYER! Peter Klenk is an exceptional attorney and a very nice person! Today I spoke with Peter about estate planning and was impressed with by his professionalism, cordiality, and attention to detail. I highly recommend Klenk Law for probates, wills, trusts, and other issues germane to estate planning!

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