With a will is contested, who pays legal fees?

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With a will is contested, who pays legal fees?

My father-in-law’s will had 2 beneficiaries, my husband and my father-in-law’s long time girlfriend. There was a separate executor. When the Will was almost

probated and all monies had been divided, the girlfriend decided to contest one bequest. She and my husband had their own lawyers and the estate had

it’s own lawyer. My husband won the case. Now is, since the estate had already been distributed before this all happened, who is responsible for the estate’s attorney fees? Obviously not the executor. My husband’s attorney feels that the judge will order the fees to be split between him and the girlfriend. My husband feels that the girlfriend should incur all the estate attorney fees since she was the one who contested. If he just pays his half, it

will cost my husband $1,100. If his attorney argues the motion and wins, it will cost $800. If he loses, it will cost $1,900. However, we kind of feel that it’s

down to the principal of the thing. My husband has already paid out $3,000 for his attorney. He would not have even had to hire an attorney if not for the girlfriend’s actions. Shouldn’t she have to pay the estate attorney’s fees?

Asked on June 29, 2018 under Estate Planning, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, in U.S. law, each party bears or pays its own attorneys fees. The one challenging pays her fees; the estate paid its own lawyer; and since your husband chose to have his own attorney, he pays for his lawyer. There are narrow exceptions to this rule, but none seem to apply, so each pays for the lawyer(s) he, she, or it (the estate) hired.


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