As a residual beneficiary are you responsible to pay outstanding legal fees?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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As a residual beneficiary are you responsible to pay outstanding legal fees?

We are listed as a residual beneficiary in a will and there are outstanding legal fees from an attorney appointed by the court. They are now claiming that as a residual beneficiary we are responsible for those outstanding fees to be paid since there are no more assets left to cover any expenses.

Asked on October 13, 2018 under Estate Planning, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, a beneficiary is not responsible to pay those fees, unless the beneficiary hired the lawyer him/herself (i.e. agreed to pay the lawyer personally). The cost of the estate's lawyers is an *estate* cost: it can be taken from estate assets only, but the beneficiaries are not personally responsibly for the costs unless they agreed to be. If there's no enough for the lawyers, they don't get paid: every lawyer, self included, as faced not being paid for some cases when the "client's" money runs out.
The rule for beneficiaries is that while you are not guaranteed to actually get anything (if all assets are used  up or gone), but you don't lose money by being a benefiary: you don't have to pay for the deceased's or the deceased's estate's medical costs.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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