Wills, Trusts & Estates keyed to Dobris
Estate of Rolfe
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Decedent left the bulk of his estate to his surviving spouse and three daughters. The total estate, including probate and non-probate amounts, was valued at over one million dollars. First Capitol Bank was named as sole executor of the estate. The bank named Richards Edmunds as the trust officer. Decedent’s attorney, Frederic K. Upton, was hired by the executor to render services for the estate. Decedent’s financial affairs were in perfect order on his death and there were no complex issues that had to be handled by either the bank or his attorney. Aware of the potentially high cost of closing an estate, Beneficiaries sought an estimate of these costs soon after Decedent’s death. Rather than being given an estimate, Beneficiaries were provided with a schedule of fees. The Beneficiaries then determined that the fees could be in excess of $30,000. Having determined this, Beneficiaries sought detailed information as to the attorney’s and executor’s fees. No information was obtain ed. Beneficiaries were then informed by the executor that it was too premature to set the fees because the amount of work that would be involved was indeterminable. Finally, when pressed by the Beneficiaries, the executor agreed that the fees could be set based upon the work done rather than by the court. Although the Beneficiaries had been sent a letter stating that due to the friendly relationship between the attorney and Decedent, the fees would be kept as minimal as possible, the executor sought the highest fees allowable. The executor and the attorney subsequently agreed to reduce their fees, but the amount was still higher than the Beneficiaries thought reasonable. The daughters challenged the fees in probate court. The probate court determined that based on the value of the estate, the complexities and risks involved in managing the estate, the executor’s and attorney’s expert qualifications, and the amount of work done on the estate, an amount of $26,000 was to be awarded in f ees. Daughters challenge this contention.
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