The problem with these fee guidelines is that they don't reflect the actual involvment and participation of the executor and family memebers who may, in some cases be willing and able to perform certain tasks, while in other estates, the family and executor want and expect a higher level of service. Likewise, set guidelines and the lawyers and firms that rely upon them exclusivly, fail to recognize that no two estates are the same and that an estate of $600,000 with two cooperative beneficiaries who are also both executors will likely have fewer legal issues than an estate of the same amount with multiple beneficiaries that do not cooperate.
The problem with hourly charges is that the executor cannot know, up front, what the cost of legal services will be. Furthermore, executors then feel reluctant to call counsel to ask questions becasue they feel that it will drive the fee up when in fact the answers to those questions may be essential.
The Financial times recently examined this issue in an article on probate fee brokers. While we don't have probate fee brokers in this country, if you are an executor, it pays to find a firm that will negotiate a flat fee, up front, and commit to that fee in a written fee agreement.
In this way, the executor knows exactly the services to be performed, what the executor must be responsible for, and families with simple asets and high levels of cooperation are rewarded with lower fees.
To get a copy f the Johnson Estate Guidlines, and more information about executors fees and attorney fees in Pennsylvania, click this link for my article : Read this Before Hiring An Attorney - Attorney and Executor Fees.
For more information about how my firm charges (on a flat fee basis customized to your circumstances) call 610-933-8069 for an appointment of a telephone conference. And for more information about the top mistakes executors make and how to avoid them, click here.
David M. Frees III, Esquire
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Chairman: Wealth Preservation and Asset Protection Section
Unruh, Turner, Burke and Frees