Bill received after Estate is closed

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Mlm
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Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Mlm » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:41 am

I am the Executor of my late mother's Estate. Most of her accounts were POD so there was very little that was the responsibility of the Estate. I hired my Attorney (no contract signed) to help with the court paperwork. It was a small Estate in New York State (under 30K)

An Associate in his office handled everything and advised me to wait over seven months to allow all bills to be received and paid stating that after allowing a reasonable period there could be no further claims. When all was said and done, ten months later, he calculated the distributions to the beneficiaries which was about 5K each.

After I made the distributions I signed the final court papers to close the Estate a few days ago. Today the Associate called me to explain that his boss (my Attorney) had never submitted the legal bill to the Estate.

I told him to send it to me. I was shocked that it was almost 2K after a personal discount. I don't want to go back to the beneficiaries and ask them to help with the bill. One had the money deposited to a Special needs trust and one is retired and barely surviving.

I'll probably end up paying it myself but if I don't can he sue me personally or would he sue the Estate?
I'm pretty miffed that his office screwed this up.

Thanks, Mary
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dm200
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by dm200 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:02 am

Mlm wrote:I am the Executor of my late mother's Estate. Most of her accounts were POD so there was very little that was the responsibility of the Estate. I hired my Attorney (no contract signed) to help with the court paperwork. It was a small Estate in New York State (under 30K)
An Associate in his office handled everything and advised me to wait over seven months to allow all bills to be received and paid stating that after allowing a reasonable period there could be no further claims. When all was said and done, ten months later, he calculated the distributions to the beneficiaries which was about 5K each.
After I made the distributions I signed the final court papers to close the Estate a few days ago. Today the Associate called me to explain that his boss (my Attorney) had never submitted the legal bill to the Estate.
I told him to send it to me. I was shocked that it was almost 2K after a personal discount. I don't want to go back to the beneficiaries and ask them to help with the bill. One had the money deposited to a Special needs trust and one is retired and barely surviving.
I'll probably end up paying it myself but if I don't can he sue me personally or would he sue the Estate?
I'm pretty miffed that his office screwed this up.
Thanks, Mary
Wow! An attorney forgets about a bill!! Put that on "Ripley's Believe It or Not"

As executor, didn't you notice the lack of such a bill?

Depending on the work done, that amount does not seem unreasonable (in a way), but in relation to the under $30k whold estate seems a little high.

Even though you had no actual contract, did you have anything listing what you wanted/needed from an attorney?

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8foot7
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by 8foot7 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:03 am

I'd offer to pay half of it once he discounts the other half for being so incompetent.

Gill
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Gill » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:04 am

When the associate calculated the distribution, didn't he keep a reserve for final expenses including attorney fees? If not, his work was awfully sloppy. I assume the estate is closed and the executor has been discharged. There are others with more experience in this, but my thought would be the attorney is stuck and certainly can't come after you personally. The fee seems reasonable. I would express your displeasure and point out their neglect in not keeping a suitable reserve. Maybe offer him $1,500 to settle the matter.
Gill

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VA_Gent
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by VA_Gent » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:06 am

"I hired my Attorney (no contract signed)"

I think this is where your problem starts. He was working for you personally not the estate.
Either way, he should be willing to reduce the bill because it was partially his fault for not billing for 10 months.

Call him and explain that it will be coming out of your pocket and not the estate. If he values you as a future client, I believe he will discount the bill (maybe 50%).

Good luck!

btenny
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by btenny » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:07 am

Unfortunately I think you will have to pay the guy. This is what lawyers love about probate. They get paid even for low cost estates where there should be no probate. People don't know what is needed so lawyers just file everything and bill the hours. I got scr**ed just like this for my Dads' estate back in the 1970s by a lawyer friend. He charged me $1K as I recall to file some papers. I bet if you ask around you might find you did not even need to file anything for this low amount of $$$. That was the case for my Dad.

Good Luck.

Gill
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Gill » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:10 am

btenny wrote:Unfortunately I think you will have to pay the guy. This is what lawyers love about probate. They get paid even for low cost estates where there should be no probate. People don't know what is needed so lawyers just file everything and bill the hours. I got scr**ed just like this for my Dads' estate back in the 1970s by a lawyer friend. He charged me $1K as I recall to file some papers. I bet if you ask around you might find you did not even need to file anything for this low amount of $$$. That was the case for my Dad.

Good Luck.
What makes you think there was probate? New York has a small estate administration statute whereby smaller estates can be administered without probate and usually without the need for an attorney.
Gill

Silk McCue
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Silk McCue » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:20 am

My thoughts are... If they calculated the distribution and failed to account for the probate expenses they are at fault. The estate is now closed with the courts and no longer exists and you have no further obligation. Had any other creditor failed to file in a timely fashion according to the rules under which your state operates they would have no recourse. I believe your attorney has no recourse. This is inexcusable quite honestly. Since you as the the executor acted based upon your attorneys actions he would be hard pressed to hold you responsible.

I would offer to pay a percentage of the bill that is a % of the amount of the estate proceed that you received. If you received none then they must accept responsibility for their actions and consider it an education expense.

Gill
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Gill » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:27 am

Silk McCue wrote:My thoughts are... If they calculated the distribution and failed to account for the probate expenses they are at fault. The estate is now closed with the courts and no longer exists and you have no further obligation. Had any other creditor failed to file in a timely fashion according to the rules under which your state operates they would have no recourse. I believe your attorney has no recourse. This is inexcusable quite honestly. Since you as the the executor acted based upon your attorneys actions he would be hard pressed to hold you responsible.

I would offer to pay a percentage of the bill that is a % of the amount of the estate proceed that you received. If you received none then they must accept responsibility for their actions and consider it an education expense.
I agree entirely. It must have been a very inexperienced associate who calculated the distribution without allowing a reserve for final expenses including attorney fees. Your idea of the OP paying a pro rata share based on the share of the estate received is a good one.
Gill

Silk McCue
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Silk McCue » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:35 am

VA_Gent wrote:"I hired my Attorney (no contract signed)"

I think this is where your problem starts. He was working for you personally not the estate.
I disagree respectfully. The attorney was working for the estate on behalf of the executor. The estate pays the attorney not the executor.

Gill
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Gill » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:53 am

Silk McCue wrote:
VA_Gent wrote:"I hired my Attorney (no contract signed)"

I think this is where your problem starts. He was working for you personally not the estate.
I disagree respectfully. The attorney was working for the estate on behalf of the executor. The estate pays the attorney not the executor.
I believe what you are saying is that the executor or personal representative isn't personally liable.
Gill

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VA_Gent
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by VA_Gent » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:56 am

Then why not say the estate hired.
The no contract part is what could open up the can of worms.

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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by barnaclebob » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:00 pm

How much do you value the relationship with the attorney? If he is owed the 2k and made a mistake and his relationship is worth that cost then I would pay it.

Otherwise I would pay my share of it from my distribution but say that the rest has been distributed and you don't feel comfortable asking the beneficiaries to pay back the money.

Gill
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Gill » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:00 pm

VA_Gent wrote:Then why not say the estate hired.
The no contract part is what could open up the can of worms.
The personal representative retains the attorney to represent the estate. The client is the personal representative in that capacity, not individually. Accordingly, the estate is liable for the fees, not the PR individually. It certainly must have been clear who the attorney was representing.
Gill

btenny
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by btenny » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:03 pm

I respectively suggest this attorney should be paid about $500 maximum. As Gill pointed out NY has a stature that allows no court proceedings for low value estates. The attorney should have told his "friend" about this statue and any other paperwork that was needed so the executor could do this himself instead of paying a high cost assistant to do this task. This is what the attorney should have told his "friend" and then billed him for the 1/2 hour it took to tell him that.

Good Luck.

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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:08 pm

The attorney should not expect you or any other beneficiaries to pay the bill. He should bill the estate. There is no estate? Well, that isn't your problem.
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by pintail07 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:11 pm

If it were me I would write the attorney a letter explaining the situation and ask him what his thoughts are now the estate is closed and ask why he didn't hold anything back in reserve. I would then review his reaction. At most I would pay your share only.

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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by mrc » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:19 pm

Was the bill itemized? If so, perhaps the $2K is legit. Pay it. But if it's just a bottom line $2K bill, remind them the estate is closed, ask for an itemization (so you can split 3-ways), and ask for a discount for the delay.
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Artsdoctor » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:46 pm

The amount of the bill is reasonable.

The way he handled the bill is ridiculous.

I'm not a lawyer but the way I'd handle it is this:

Call him up and say that this was mishandled. He was handling the estate and forgot to bill you prior to closing the estate? Ask him if this is how he usually does business. Tell him the money has already been distributed and that you've followed all of his recommendations by waiting for a specific period. Ask him how, after admitting that he made a very sloppy mistake, he'd prefer to handle the bill. If he asks what you'd like to do, offer to pay only your portion of it.

If he gives you a hard time, I'd voice my displeasure and bring up the concern you have about competence. I'd say that it seems unlikely something this sloppy has occurred in a vacuum and that it probably denotes sloppiness in other areas. I'd say that I'm concerned enough to contact the county and state bar associations. I'd also stress that, although word of mouth is important, many people look on Yelp and other sites for opinions, and that you'd feel obligated to right a review online with all of these details so that others would not be put in a similar situation.

Cruise
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Cruise » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:47 pm

OP:

This is all about whether you want to keep your relationship with your attorney.

Attorney's have a professional responsibility (ethics requirement that is delineated by the bar) to have a written contract. Failure to have that contract in place exposes them to disciplinary sanctions if you care to file a written complaint with your state's disciplinary counsel (Google for more information).

If you filed a complaint, not only would the attorney face a sanction (probably minor unless he/she has a long history of problems), but your bill would be forgiven. However, you would no longer have a relationship with this professional.

bsteiner
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by bsteiner » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:08 pm

Cruise wrote:... Attorneys have a professional responsibility (ethics requirement that is delineated by the bar) to have a written contract. ...
There's an exception in New York if the fee is expected to be less than $3,000: https://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/lett ... ules.shtml.

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bottlecap
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by bottlecap » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:12 pm

One option is putting this back on the lawyer.

Say "Gee, you provided an accounting and asked me to distribute what was remaining of the estate. I did so. Where is the money going to come from to pay the bill?" See what they say back.

Another option is to ask the attorney to divide the bill and send it out to each beneficiary (which also puts it back on the lawyer, I guess). Pay your share and let him try to collect the rest.

It doesn't appear that a written contract is required in this situation under what little I know of New York law. But even if it is required, that may subject the attorney to discipline, but it might not necessarily invalidate the bill.

I suspect that this is the associate's fault as well. Where you provided with/Did you take a look at the accounting? If you weren't provided it, this is all on the attorney. If you were and didn't see the lawyer's fee on there, you bear some responsibility and much shame...

Seriously, I'd be willing to pay my share if I were you, but unless I could be shown where it is my responsibility under the law, let the lawyer collect from others.

JT

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Mlm
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Mlm » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:12 pm

OP here Thanks for the ideas.

I have had a long relationship with the owner of this small law office and in the past he has done some small work for me without charge. I gave him a lot of business (over 100K per year for 25 years) for the company I used to work for. I don't want to stiff him but his employee really screwed this up. I think I will sit on this bill for now and see if I get any further collection correspondence. If I do, I will offer $500 for my portion of the bill. In any case I won't be giving him any future business.

Mary
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dm200
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by dm200 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:15 pm

My brother was an Executor for two family members in NY State. One was a small amount and the other was a significant value (including small farm of 100+ acres). He did most of the work himself and only engaged an attorney to do certain things. He saved the estate a lot of money.

Did this attorney file anything or become "on the record" as representing the estate?

Some estates (depending on the will and other details) require posting of a "bond". Was this done?

Seems to me a real dilemma, since the attorney did work and (probably) should be compensated, but the lack of timely billing is quite serious and surprising.

I assume the OP wishes to remain in a good relationship with this attorney.

retiredjg
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by retiredjg » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:23 pm

It is possible the associate messed up and is billing you now without the attorney's knowledge. I think that professionals like doctors and lawyers frequently do not know every little detail of what is going on in the billing office. I'd try to find out if the attorney even knows about the bill before deciding what to do about it.

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Mlm
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Mlm » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:31 pm

retiredjg wrote:It is possible the associate messed up and is billing you now without the attorney's knowledge. I think that professionals like doctors and lawyers frequently do not know every little detail of what is going on in the billing office. I'd try to find out if the attorney even knows about the bill before deciding what to do about it.
Excellent point ! My Attorney may not even be aware of what his employee did. If that's the case I would hate to be "that guy".

Mary
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dm200
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by dm200 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:34 pm

Mlm wrote:
retiredjg wrote:It is possible the associate messed up and is billing you now without the attorney's knowledge. I think that professionals like doctors and lawyers frequently do not know every little detail of what is going on in the billing office. I'd try to find out if the attorney even knows about the bill before deciding what to do about it.
Excellent point ! My Attorney may not even be aware of what his employee did. If that's the case I would hate to be "that guy".
Mary
Very well could be the case.

Were the billable tasks done by an associate or the main attorney or both?

Random Poster
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Random Poster » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:36 pm

Mlm wrote:OP here Thanks for the ideas.

I have had a long relationship with the owner of this small law office and in the past he has done some small work for me without charge. I gave him a lot of business (over 100K per year for 25 years) for the company I used to work for. I don't want to stiff him but his employee really screwed this up. I think I will sit on this bill for now and see if I get any further collection correspondence. If I do, I will offer $500 for my portion of the bill. In any case I won't be giving him any future business.

Mary
From this reply, it seems---to me--that you had, based on previous dealings with the law firm, that this attorney did personal work for you on a pro bono basis.

To that end, and maybe I missed it, but was there any discussion between you and the owner and/or the associate regarding the law firm's fee to provide you with guidance and assistance? Did you expect that the estate administration guidance would be provided for free? If so, why?

As dm200 notes above, in paying all of the bills, why didn't you notice that the law firm hadn't issued a bill and inquire about it then?

Did the law firm make a mistake in not issuing a bill sooner? Probably.

But I think that you "screwed this up" too, by not delineating, at the outset of the representation, the cost for the services to be provided, and--in the absence of any such determination---to set aside a reasonable amount therefor. That you "don't want to go back to the beneficiaries and ask them to help with the bill" is, in my view, immaterial, and is really just cover for you not wanting to acknowledge a mistake that you had a hand in making.

If you want to "sit on the bill" for a while and see if the attorney pushes for collection, so be it. And if you want to stop using the attorney over a $2,000 bill and a problem that you created and benefited from, even in light of the fact that this same attorney apparently provided you with decent legal work in the past (for free!) and your past employer with decent legal work for 25 years, have at it. I can't say that if I were the attorney, I'd really miss having you as a client anyway.

afan
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by afan » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:39 pm

In case you don't know, besteiner and gill are attorneys in this field. I would ask them for their opinion.

I am not a lawyer so keep that in mind:

My understanding is that once the estate is closed any bills submitted afterward are out of luck. My understanding is that if the personal representative mishandled the funds, made distributions that should not have been made, failed to pay taxes due, etc. then they could be held responsible. In this case, the OP relied on the attorney's advice as to the specific amounts to distribute, so, I would assume, cannot be held accountable for the missing money to pay the attorney.

In regards to maintaining a good relationship with the firm, in this case I would handle it politely and respectfully. You say "I am terribly sorry, but the estate has closed. Had you submitted your bill earlier I might have been able to pay you. As it stands all the assets have been distributed and the estate is closed. I really appreciate the work we have done together over the years, and I am sorry this has not worked out for you. But it is out of my hands."
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johnnyc321
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by johnnyc321 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:42 pm

Cruise wrote:OP:
Attorney's have a professional responsibility (ethics requirement that is delineated by the bar) to have a written contract. Failure to have that contract in place exposes them to disciplinary sanctions if you care to file a written complaint with your state's disciplinary counsel (Google for more information).
Perhaps that is true in whatever state you are in (I doubt it), but it is definitely not true in Florida. Written attorney fee contracts/engagement letters are required in only specific situations such as nonrefundable fees and contingency contracts. With that said, I agree that having a written agreement is best.

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8foot7
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by 8foot7 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:45 pm

Random Poster wrote: But I think that you "screwed this up" too, by not delineating, at the outset of the representation, the cost for the services to be provided, and--in the absence of any such determination---to set aside a reasonable amount therefor. That you "don't want to go back to the beneficiaries and ask them to help with the bill" is, in my view, immaterial, and is really just cover for you not wanting to acknowledge a mistake that you had a hand in making.
I'm generally all for taking personal responsibility but the whole point of estate services is to manage the process of closing out bills and administering logistics. I fail to see how this is the customer's responsibility to remind the lawyer to follow the processes he set up to handle his client's business.

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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by bottlecap » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:27 pm

8foot7 wrote:
Random Poster wrote: But I think that you "screwed this up" too, by not delineating, at the outset of the representation, the cost for the services to be provided, and--in the absence of any such determination---to set aside a reasonable amount therefor. That you "don't want to go back to the beneficiaries and ask them to help with the bill" is, in my view, immaterial, and is really just cover for you not wanting to acknowledge a mistake that you had a hand in making.
I'm generally all for taking personal responsibility but the whole point of estate services is to manage the process of closing out bills and administering logistics. I fail to see how this is the customer's responsibility to remind the lawyer to follow the processes he set up to handle his client's business.
That's not exactly the case. Much of the managing is the responsibility of the executor. The attorney hired by the executor on behalf of the estate does the legal work, but does not "manage the process." And the bills generally go to the executor.

And perhaps that is part of the problem here - the attorney, trying to do a long-time client a favor, tried to handle some of the management and got burned.

That's not to absolve the attorney for biting off more than he could chew - you still have to do it right if you are going to offer to do it. But generally the attorney does not take over the functions of the executor.

JT

Jags4186
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Jags4186 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:38 pm

If you like the attorney and want to use him in the forward ask him to cut the bill and pay him.

Otherwise let him know that the estate is closed and there are no remaining assets.

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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by daveydoo » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:47 pm

The work was done and $2000 seems pretty reasonable, depending upon what was needed, imo. I'm dealing with a similar situation now (as a client). But just as estate attorney fees should not scale with estate size in the "big" direction, they needn't scale with estate size in the other direction either. Those who feel it should be a couple percent of the $30K -- that won't buy you any attorney time at all. There's a minimum and I doubt it's gonna be much lower than this.

I think you should go back to the five or six beneficiaries and ask each for the $300. I'm not surprised that the attorney's bill was late -- aren't they always? And I agree with other posters who feel that perhaps you should have known that no payment had been made to the attorney, right? Aren't you overseeing this process on at least some level (like the checkbook for the estate account) -- or did you outsource all the due diligence to this third party? This is how money disappears, imo.

I don't know the tax implications of paying the attorney now vs. having had it come out of the estate -- that can be a lost opportunity. But the estate generated so little income in this instance (I'm guessing) that the effect would be negligible.

Jill07
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Jill07 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:50 pm

I found this information on settling small estates in New York:

http://nycourts.gov/courthelp//WhenSome ... tate.shtml

Note: “If the Decedent owned real property, like a house or land, in their name alone then it's not a small estate anymore.”

If your mother’s estate was truly considered a small estate in NY then I think his fees are too high. The website referenced above provides information on how to administer a small estate without the use of a lawyer.

“The easiest way to make the court papers is to use the Small Estate DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form program. This program walks you step-by-step to complete the paperwork you need and gives you helpful definitions and legal information. When you finish the program you get the court forms you need and instructions of what to do next.”

I have never administered a small estate in NY. If anyone on the board has done this in NY, I would be interested in how it worked out. I have an elderly relative in living in NY.

What exactly did the lawyer do for you? Maybe you can negotiate the fee down.
Best wishes,
Jill

SimonJester
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by SimonJester » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:25 pm

Wow, when my wife hired a probate attorney for her late fathers estate, they required a small retainer fee from which they would bill against.


I would call the attorney and tell him you just receive a bill against your fathers estate after probate was closed. Tell them you would like them to draft a letter to the company explaining probate is closed and their claim is denied. When he asked who the company is provide the lawyers name.

The reaction should be priceless. From there you can begin your negotiations on the bill...
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

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Mlm
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Mlm » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:25 pm

Jill07 wrote:I found this information on settling small estates in New York:

http://nycourts.gov/courthelp//WhenSome ... tate.shtml

Note: “If the Decedent owned real property, like a house or land, in their name alone then it's not a small estate anymore.”

If your mother’s estate was truly considered a small estate in NY then I think his fees are too high. The website referenced above provides information on how to administer a small estate without the use of a lawyer.

“The easiest way to make the court papers is to use the Small Estate DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form program. This program walks you step-by-step to complete the paperwork you need and gives you helpful definitions and legal information. When you finish the program you get the court forms you need and instructions of what to do next.”

I have never administered a small estate in NY. If anyone on the board has done this in NY, I would be interested in how it worked out. I have an elderly relative in living in NY.

What exactly did the lawyer do for you? Maybe you can negotiate the fee down.
Best wishes,
Jill

Yes, this was indeed a small estate under $30K. No real estate, no car. It included a bank account, a security deposit, a few refunds, garage sale proceeds.

The Attorney obtained a Certificate of Voluntary Adiminstration, notified all beneficiaries, prepared an Affidavit of, Property, Affidavit By Fiduciary and a Report and Accounting Document.

I did the work of collecting funds due and paying all of the bills. All cancelled check were copied to the Attorney for the final accounting.

In retrospect I may have been able to do everything myself but at the time I had no idea what was going to be required and I was overwhelmed with the physical chores involved.. I don't regret engaging an Attorney to guide me.

I acted on guidance provided by the Attorney even if it was bad guidance. I admit that I should have noticed the missing legal bill so this is probably all my fault.

Mary
Reality has a way of catching up with you

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Mlm
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Mlm » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:30 pm

SimonJester wrote: I would call the attorney and tell him you just receive a bill against your fathers estate after probate was closed. Tell them you would like them to draft a letter to the company explaining probate is closed and their claim is denied. When he asked who the company is provide the lawyers name.

The reaction should be priceless. From there you can begin your negotiations on the bill...
Priceless indeed !!!!!!!


Mary
Reality has a way of catching up with you

afan
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by afan » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:37 pm

SimonJester wrote:Wow, when my wife hired a probate attorney for her late fathers estate, they required a small retainer fee from which they would bill against.


I would call the attorney and tell him you just receive a bill against your fathers estate after probate was closed. Tell them you would like them to draft a letter to the company explaining probate is closed and their claim is denied. When he asked who the company is provide the lawyers name.

The reaction should be priceless. From there you can begin your negotiations on the bill...
Of course, you will now owe the lawyer for the conversation and more if the firm actually drafts a letter. If the lawyer is paying attention and knows the estate has been closed, might ask you whether you are calling on your behalf or in your capacity as personal representative. If the latter, how do you propose to pay?

Is there any chance the attorney had billed you earlier and you missed it?
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Mlm
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Mlm » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:43 pm

afan wrote:
SimonJester wrote:Is there any chance the attorney had billed you earlier and you missed it?
No chance and the Associate Attorney called to inform me that a bill had not been previously generated.

Mary
Reality has a way of catching up with you

carolinaman
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by carolinaman » Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:45 am

I would negotiate with the attorney for a reduction and pay it. 50% reduction seems reasonable. They have culpability in both administering estate payments, closing estate and sending the bill late. Given the small size of the estate, you should have noticed the lack of a bill yourself. So you have some culpability too. Too bad. Nothing about attorneys ever surprises me.

Gill
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Gill » Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:09 am

carolinaman wrote:Nothing about attorneys ever surprises me.
Me either, even though I "is" one. :happy
Gill

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Pajamas
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Pajamas » Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:24 am

Mlm wrote:
An Associate in his office handled everything and advised me to wait over seven months to allow all bills to be received and paid stating that after allowing a reasonable period there could be no further claims. When all was said and done, ten months later, he calculated the distributions to the beneficiaries which was about 5K each.

After I made the distributions I signed the final court papers to close the Estate a few days ago. Today the Associate called me to explain that his boss (my Attorney) had never submitted the legal bill to the Estate.
Sounds to me like this is the fault of Associate and that Attorney may not even be aware of it. I would ask Attorney rather than Associate what advice is given to the executor of an estate that has been closed when a claim is received in light of state law. If the estate was handled and closed properly, the claim is likely no good. What was the agreement regarding fees?

Here is a letter that addresses this issue for NY but it may very well be outdated, as it is from 2006:

http://www.rc.com/publications/upload/1640.pdf

donall
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by donall » Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:31 am

This attorney has worked for you for decades and also did pro bono work for you. Not sure why you would not just pay the bill and keep a decade-long relationship.

cengel
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by cengel » Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:16 am

Gill wrote:
Silk McCue wrote:My thoughts are... If they calculated the distribution and failed to account for the probate expenses they are at fault. The estate is now closed with the courts and no longer exists and you have no further obligation. Had any other creditor failed to file in a timely fashion according to the rules under which your state operates they would have no recourse. I believe your attorney has no recourse. This is inexcusable quite honestly. Since you as the the executor acted based upon your attorneys actions he would be hard pressed to hold you responsible.

I would offer to pay a percentage of the bill that is a % of the amount of the estate proceed that you received. If you received none then they must accept responsibility for their actions and consider it an education expense.
I agree entirely. It must have been a very inexperienced associate who calculated the distribution without allowing a reserve for final expenses including attorney fees. Your idea of the OP paying a pro rata share based on the share of the estate received is a good one.
Gill
Full disclosure: I'm also a lawyer.

I agree with Gill and Silk's suggestion. Offer to pay your pro rata share and let them worry about dealing with the other heirs if they so choose.

Jill07
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by Jill07 » Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:22 am

btenny wrote:I respectively suggest this attorney should be paid about $500 maximum. As Gill pointed out NY has a stature that allows no court proceedings for low value estates. The attorney should have told his "friend" about this statue and any other paperwork that was needed so the executor could do this himself instead of paying a high cost assistant to do this task. This is what the attorney should have told his "friend" and then billed him for the 1/2 hour it took to tell him that.

Good Luck.
I agree 1000% with btenny. This attorney friend should have directed you to the online DIY process for small estates & told you what his fees would be to do the work for you (if you did not want to do it yourself). NY State has an online process to help individuals file the correct paperwork without the use of a lawyer. Two thousand dollars is a lot of money, especially when 3 beneficiaries are receiving only $5000 each.


Best wishes,
Jill

gd
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by gd » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:11 pm

I don't want to go back to the beneficiaries and ask them to help with the bill. One had the money deposited to a Special needs trust and one is retired and barely surviving.
If you tell the lawyer to get it back from the other beneficiaries themselves and walk away, the other beneficiaries are going to get a bill out of nowhere for $600. Do not be surprised if they hold it against you. You may not have a legal obligation, but you have a moral obligation to at least try to resolve it to conclusion with the lawyer without re-involving them, e.g. offering to settle for your share only. Personally, I think the lawyer's office should just admit they blew it and write off the $2k.

J295
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by J295 » Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:56 am

Fascinating responses .....

In my world, $2,000 is not material, but a 25 year relationship with someone is material.

If I were the lawyer I would most certainly want the OP to contact me for a personal meeting or phone call to discuss so both the lawyer and the OP could have the same understanding of the pertinent facts. Depending on facts and perspectives, as the lawyer I'd be willing to write off the bill if that's what the client decided was fair. If I were the client I'd be open to paying at least my personal share at a minimum, and it's very likely that I would want to have the lawyer or me write a letter to the beneficiaries explaining the oversight by the lawyer and asking that they remit their share direct the lawyer.

Let's assume the associate did good work and that he/she or someone else made a mistake. Mistakes happen all the time. Why not cut him/her some slack and make this work out with everyone paying their fair share. A bit clumsy ... I suppose ... but it really seems pretty straightforward to handle. I know I wouldn't blink it I got an inheritance and then later got a modest bill with an explanation describing what happened here.

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8foot7
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by 8foot7 » Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:17 am

J295 wrote: Let's assume the associate did good work and that he/she or someone else made a mistake. Mistakes happen all the time. Why not cut him/her some slack and make this work out with everyone paying their fair share.
Dividing the bill by four and having the firm eat 25% and soliciting 25% from each of the other three beneficiaries sounds pretty fair. Like you say, mistakes happen. As I mentioned previously, though, I don't envision any scenario being fair in which the firm does not write off a significant portion of the bill.

johnubc
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Re: Bill received after Estate is closed

Post by johnubc » Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:18 am

I would have a meeting with the lawyer and discuss -

1 - If a bill came in from another source, what would the lawyer recommend - pay or no pay.
2 - How the lawyer would recommend you go after the other beneficiaries to recover the fee
3 - How his collection process will proceed trying to collect from the now closed estate.
4 - Why he did not call me directly, instead of sending the associate as the messenger.

I would then probably pay him out of my own funds, but, because of his sloppiness, start looking for another lawyer.

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