April 3, 2017

Attorney fees in Probate

Los Angeles County Superior Court
Compensation for a personal representative and attorney in a probate is derived from a statutory scheme that provides for ordinary compensation, and in certain instances, extraordinary compensation. Ordinary compensation is based off of a percentage of the assets. As can be surmised, ordinary compensation is regularly granted. Still, the attorney must correctly value the estate in order to claim the appropriate fee. Otherwise the probate judge will not approve the requested fee.

A recent unpublished appellate opinion discussed this issue.

Estate of Shea-Robert Sheahan, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case # BP145773

"A probate referee was appointed to appraise the assets of the estate, which, in December 2013, were estimated to have an approximate value of $800,000. According to Bock, the estate's sole asset was a membership interest in a limited liability company."

"The probate referee valued the LLC at $2,505,000, concluding that the LLC's only asset was a five-acre lot of undeveloped real property in Clark County, Nevada."

"In February 2014, Bock petitioned the probate court for authority to act as the manager of the LLC and execute an agreement for sale of the Nevada real property for $1,775,000. In March 2014, the court entered an order authorizing Bock to (i) act as manager of the LLC, (ii) sell the real property for $1,775,000, and (iii) pay a commission to the real estate broker who procured the sale."

"Following the sale, Bock proceeded to close the probate and, in the process, moved for compensation for herself and her attorney. Bock asserted the value of the estate was $4,169,768, consisting of (i) the membership interest in the LLC, valued at $2,505,000 and (ii) $1,664,768 in cash, $1,659,023 of which was received in connection with the sale of the Nevada real property. Applying sections 10800 and 10810, the $4,169,768 valuation resulted in ordinary services compensation requests of $54,698 for each of Bock and her attorney."

"After further proceedings, the probate court denied Bock's initial request for ordinary compensation. Bock then prepared a supplemental petition in accordance with the court's calculation of the estate's value. This calculation relied on the $2,505,000 appraised value of the LLC and recognized a loss on sale of the LLC's property of $845,976. Along with nominal receipts, the calculated estate value totaled $1,664,769. This estate value resulted in ordinary compensation awards of $29,648 to each of Bock and her attorney."