Executors - Read This Before You Hire An Attorney.

There are several ways that attorneys charge executors and estates.  But, before you hire one, read this article so that you understand what is best for you and for your particular estate.

Never hire counsel without a written fee agreement documenting the method of the fee regardless of which method you use to compute the fee.

Many general practice attorneys charge estates based on a flat fee of 5% to 6%.  However, in many cases, especially for large to medium sized estates, this fee structure is excessive, and even exceeds the fee guidelines set forth below. Others charge a flat fee based on the Johnson Estate Guidelines.  The guidelines are reproduced below so that you can make an informed judgement about flat fees.

Many larger firms and experienced estate planning and estate lawyers charge based on an hourly fee.  Many clients prefer this approach.  However, this has an element of unpredictability that executors may not like.  At the very least, if you are an executor, you should ask for a good faith estimate of such fees and to be billed regularly and informed as soon as possible if the fees will exceed that estimate.

In many cases, the best fee structure from the stand point of the executor and the estate is the negotiated flat fee.  That is the method that I use in my firm primarily because it is client oriented.  Clients like to know that the fee is set, and reflects the work that they will be doing. Clients can also judge whether or not the fee is reasonable given the division of work between the law firm, the executor and family, accountants, or others.

As a consumer it is best to have an attorney review the facts of your particular estate and then to quote a flat fee based primarily on the work to be done by the firm.

Finally, under Pennsylvania law, attorneys fees for estates are not set by statute but are subject to review.  They must be reasonable under all of the particular facts and circumstances.  Nevertheless, the fee guidelines below are informative.

Attorneys Fees In Pennsylvania

  $ 00.01 to $ 25,000.00 7% 1,750.00 1,750.00
  $ 25,000.01 to $ 50,000.00 6% 1,500.00 3,250.00
  $ 50,000.01 to $ 100,000.00 5% 2,500.00 5,750.00
Attorney $ 100,000.01 to $ 200,000.00 4% 4,000.00 9,750.00
  $ 200,000.01 to $ 1,000,000.00 3% 24,000.00 33,750.00
  $ 1,000,000.01 to $ 2,000,000.00 2% 20,000.00 53,750.00
  $ 2,000,000.01 to $ 3,000,000.00 1½% 15,000.00 68,750.00
  $ 3,000,000.01 to $ 4,000,000.00 1% 10,000.00 78,750.00
  $ 4,000,000.01 to $ 5,000,000.00 ½% 5,000.00 83,750.00
½% Regular Commission P.O.D. Bonds and Trust Funds 3½% Transfer Joint Accounts 3½% Assets Which Are Taxable at One Half Value
1% Non-Probate Assets up to $1,000,000 1% Non-Probate Assets   Joint Accounts Fully Taxable:
Full Commission

David M. Frees III
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David M. Frees, III
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Attorney, Speaker and Author