Being named an executor of an estate is an important job and it is wise to consult a PA probate lawyer before making any decisions as executor.  The executor is a fiduciary.  A fiduciary is held to the highest standards of loyalty and care in the eyes of the law.  As such, the executor must comply with Pennsylvania law; make appropriate decisions with regard to estate assets, i.e., decisions for investments, payment of taxes, sale of home, etc.; make decisions for satisfying debts; and properly handle claims against the estate.  If the executor fails at complying with any of these obligations, the executor can be held personally liable.  Therefore, an executor should be extremely diligent and prudent in carrying out his or her duties, and an experienced PA probate lawyer can help tremendously.  The first question many executors are concerned with is “what will it cost to probate and/or administer the estate?”  As an experienced PA probate lawyer, this is a difficult question to answer, as the total cost of administering an estate depends on the estate itself and more work and costs will be involved if the estate is large and complex.  Pennsylvania law does not have express requirements for what attorneys may or may not charge for representation during probate and estate administration, except to say that the fees must be “reasonable.”

Reasonable attorney fees for the probate process and estate administration are typically based on a percentage of the estate or based on an hourly fee agreement and an experienced PA probate lawyer will be able to suggest which type of fee agreement is appropriate based on the complexity of the estate itself.  If based on a percentage of the estate, there is specific guidance from which an experienced PA probate lawyer can refer to in determining appropriate fees. The opinion in In re Johnson Estate, 4 Fid.Rep.2d 6, 8 (O.C. Del. Co. 1983), in part, outlines a schedule of the percentages that the judge used in auditing the accounts of estates, and judges commonly use this schedule to determine the reasonableness of a lawyer’s fees during estate administration.  So, while this schedule is not statutory, it provides great guidance in determining the reasonableness of a lawyer’s fees during estate administration.  The schedule for attorney fees is as follows:

Value of Estate % of Estate Fee Total
 $0.01 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
 $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  1.5%  $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  0.5%  $5,000.00  $83,750.00

In addition, there are set percentages for certain actions undertaken by a PA probate attorney:

 Action  Percentage
 Regular commission P.O.D. bonds and trust funds  0.5%
 Non-probate assets up to $1,000,000.00  1%
 Transfer joint accounts  3.5%
 Assets which are taxable at one-half value  3.5%
 Non-probate assets  1%
 Joint accounts fully taxable  Full commission

The experienced PA probate lawyers at The Martin Law Firm offer a variety of fee arrangements to PA executors, including flat fees, hourly fees, or contingency fee arrangements.  During a free case evaluation, you and one of our PA probate lawyers can discuss together an appropriate fee prior to the commencement of legal representation.  Attorney fees are paid by the estate, and any fees paid to your PA probate lawyer are deductions for PA Inheritance Tax and Estate Tax purposes.

>> Contact The Martin Law Firm