Brief Fact Summary. Daughters (Beneficiaries) of Decedent Richard S. Rolfe (Decedent) appeal a probate court decree awarding total executor’s and attorney’s fees in the amount of $26,000.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The amount of attorney’s and executor’s fees to be paid on an estate is dependable on a variety of factors, including the actual amount of time expended for work on the estate.
Our function in reviewing the trial court's findings is not to decide whether we would have found differently but to determine whether a reasonable person could find as did the trial judge.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is the amount of attorney’s and executor’s fees to be paid on an estate is dependable on a variety of factors, including the actual amount of time expended for work on the estate?
Held. Yes. Beneficiaries argue that the primary focus in determining reasonable compensation for the executor and attorney should be the actual hours expended. The attorney and the executor, on the other hand, contend that undue consideration of time records would lead to unjust results for the more experienced and efficient worler; thus a variety of factors should be considered. The fee schedules employed to determine attorney’s and executor’s fees are problematic because they serve, in effect, as not the maximum fees allowed but instead the average fees (because fiduciaries are included toward seeking the maximum amount allowed in fees). Since the fee schedules are not an appropriate measure, we must instead determine the fee-setting standard to be employed. The fees will be determined separately for the attorney and the executor because the standards for each are different. The executor’s fees should be based on the size and the estate, the actual time involved in working on the e
state, and the responsibilities and risks involved in the estate. Attorney’s fees are based on a reasonable standard and include consideration of the following (although this is not an inclusive list): The time and labor required, novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, skills requisite to the work performed, likelihood of other work being precluded as a result of accepting this work, customary fees charged, amount involved and results obtained, time limitations involved, nature and length of professional relationship, experience, reputation, and ability of attorney, and whether the fees are fixed or contingent. Therefore, we reverse and remand with these standards to be considered on review.
Discussion. The standards employed to determine the fee amount to be awarded to the executor and the attorney are those generally employed to determine reasonable fee amounts and, as in this case, are based on a variety of different factors.