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Estate of Warhol

    Brief Fact Summary. The Supreme Court of New York reviewed an order granting Petitioner Edward Hayes, the attorney for the Warhol Estate (Petitioner), an amount in excess of seven million dollars for services rendered on the estate.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Services performed by an attorney that are executorial in nature may not properly be considered in the setting of the legal fees on an estate.

    Facts. Services were performed by an attorney on the Warhol Estate and an amount in excess of seven million dollars was awarded the attorney for his attorney and executorial fees. He was also awarded $250,000 for services expended in contesting the estate’s value. The surrogate claimed that these fees were awarded according to the following factors: (1) time spent, (2) difficulties involved, (3) nature of services, (4) amount involved, (5) professional standing, and (6) results obtained. Defendant, Attorney General, who represents the interests of the ultimate charitable organizations to benefit from the trust, seeks review of this award.

    Issue. May services performed by an attorney that are executorial in nature be properly considered in the setting of the legal fees on an estate?

    Held. No. Services performed by an attorney that are executorial in nature may not properly be considered in the setting of the legal fees on an estate. The surrogate improperly concluded that because the customary distinctions between executorial and legal services are of “little meaning” in this unique estate these fees could be meshed together. Moreover, the surrogate improperly valued the hourly fee to be paid to Petitioner. The surrogate improperly exceeded her authority in affording Petitioner the amount in fees.

    Dissent. In effect, Petitioner served as a general counsel to a multimillion dollar entity and should not be relegated on a simple hourly basis. Petitioner was responsible for an increase in the value of the estate because he helped increase the amount awarded paintings during appraisal. For these reasons, a partial dissent was written.

    Discussion. Fees are payable to attorneys and executors who handle estates. Normally these fees are separated when determined and paid. Various factors are considered in awarding the fees, and the reasonableness of the fees is analyzed by a court in accord with those factors.


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