Is there a legal limit on fees that lawyers charge for probate?

UPDATED: Oct 18, 2011

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Is there a legal limit on fees that lawyers charge for probate?

My 80 year old friend lost her husband suddenly last summer. The charged $2624.18 for probate of an $11,500 estate. She must appear before a judge next week to agree to those fees. What are her options?

Asked on October 18, 2011 under Estate Planning, Arkansas


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for her loss.  Some states set the amount of the attorney's fees by statute.  Some states - such as New York - have a fee that has evolved to be customary in probate (such a approximately 3-4% of the gross estate).  From what I can tell Arkansas has no statute specifically that gives a percentage but rather refers to "reasonable fees" that must be approved by a judge.  The court take in to consideration the complexity of the estate and the time involved.  You have here what is known as a small estate - a very small estate - and the fee is more that a quarter of the estate value.  Seems a bit excessive but yo give no details as to what it entailed.  Was it just paperwork in transferring deeds?  How informed was she about the process?  I think that she needs to explain to the judge that this percentage seems a bit excessive and request a breakdown.  If it was merely transactional work - preparing and filing deeds - or if most of it was done by a paralegal then maybe they can agree on a flat fee for a lesser amount  But if she signed a retainer then she may be in trouble here.  Good luck.

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