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NFT: Estate lawyer issues

jc in c-ville : 1/12/2018 12:19 pm
Handling fathers estate here in Florida since Mid-July.

My concerns center on the paralegal.

She is not on top of everything. Her desk is flooded with paperwork, shit everywhere. About two months ago- two months- I asked her where we were with the billing. At first, she would gently by-pass with a gentle, I'm behind and I will get back to you.

Last week, I went to pick up the court orders to open an estate account ( she stated she would have happily emailed me them to me :).

Within my visit, she appeared nervous as when asked again about the money, exclaimed something about having problems with the system, bullshit, bullshit.

This Tuesday, I emailed the lawyer asking for a detailed billing report. As I have pretty much handled the transferring of assets myself, reached out to IRA and IBM (stock), sold car, all the other BS, they're simply doing the bare minimum in terms of waiting on the courts, which in her verbiage is months behind.

No email back from lawyer.

Personally, this isn't a complicated estate. I realize it is a dysfunctional process- by definition. I also think that the paralegal is in over her head and my email to the lawyer prompted a confrontation/or conversation between the lawyer and her as to where we are with this. And, she hasn't been keeping up.

Today, I called her to...you Guessed it. Talk about where we are with the money. She actually seemed perky to hear my voice then stated that they have to have their computer system upgraded, replaced. You can't make this shit up.

This lawyer was recommended to my father. Great reviews. Met with him after Dad passed and he was fantastic.

What are my options here? Chill and let this process play out? At the end of the process and everything should be done within say two months but the lack of communication is really starting to piss me off.

At 250/hr, don't want to set up a meeting with lawyer to ask where are we only to be met with- we're working on it.

Is it standard practice for the lawyer to keep in contact with the client on the billing say every quarter?

I'm fearful that the billing is going to be jacked up due to the lack of organization on her part and how do I fight that if I feel I have done much of the work, and I have other than faxing paperwork to the court.

Would speaking with the judge be helpful?

Sorry to vent.
You should make sure that you document all of this..  
EricJ : 1/12/2018 12:24 pm : link
and state that you will begin deducting from the final bill.
Be careful......I live in Pennsylvania and had two estates to deal  
GiantBlue : 1/12/2018 12:29 pm : link
with; first my father's and then my aunt's. (2009 & 2010).

My father knew he was dying, so we prepared as much as possible with TOD's, a strong will and with me an only child; a stress free estate. However, in PA, there is a rule that the attorney - no matter how easy the estate - can get a % of the estate as her fee. I also had the situation where they weren't sharing the billing or charges with me until it was all over and then hit me with a $50K plus bill. For a few hours work and one visit to the courthouse!!!! I was able to negotiate it down to half that, but still felt stung!

So when I was in the position to do my aunt's estate- no husband/no children/I had POA - I interviewed several attorneys in the area and finalized an agreement on the attorney who charged an hourly fee. A similarly easy estate, the bill came to $3,500 with the offer of a free will for my wife and me.

So, please be careful. You don't want that surprise!
Good  
jc in c-ville : 1/12/2018 2:54 pm : link
Grief
You really should have gotten the fee (estimate)  
EricJ : 1/12/2018 2:57 pm : link
up front. Since it seems like they are not done with this, it may be a good time to at least find out how much this will cost. Have a backup plan
Send a certified letter to the attorney  
baadbill : 1/12/2018 4:05 pm : link
advising you want the following:

-------------------------------------------
Dear Attorney Smith:

Please provide me with a written report, within 30 days, setting forth the information listed below. I would request you send an email to me at john_jones@email.com confirming your receipt of this letter and that you will provide me with the report as requested.

(1) An overview of the steps/process from start to finish of handling your dad's estate

(2) The current status - what has been accomplished and what remains to be done.

(3) A rough schedule of the dates by when each future major step will be completed.

(4) Detailed billing statement setting forth all work performed to date and charges relating to same.

(5) An estimate of the cost to completion

(6) Your agreement to provide me with written invoices every 90 days.

(7) That you agree to respond/acknowledge my phone messages and emails no later than the next working day.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

John Jones


----------------------------------
This is only an initial step. You need to follow up to be sure you:

* In fact receive the confirming email. If you don't receive it within 72 hours, I would walk into his office and demand to see him in person ... at which time I would hand him another copy of the letter and demand he email you then and there (while you wait) agreeing in writing that he received your letter and that he will provide you with all of the requested information not later than 30 days.

* That you in fact receive the written report.

* That you understand the report and that you follow up with any questions you have.

* That you in fact receive invoices every 3 months (4x a year).

* That you demand timely responses to phone calls/email requests. Timely means within one business day (it really should be the same business day)

You don't have to be combative or angry with the attorney. But you should be assertive. You are paying his bill. You are his client. He is ethically obligated to keep you advised and to provide timely responses to your requests. You should politely demand that - and being persistent should result in his being responsive (he'll delay his responses to clients who don't care in order to not have to deal with your assertiveness).
$250 per hour?  
section125 : 1/12/2018 7:45 pm : link
Mine was standard Florida 3% of the assets that were not designated to a specific beneficiary. And yes I did all the sales, transfers of stock, filed for the insurances, etc.
Lawyers fight for justice  
Sarcastic Sam : 1/12/2018 9:57 pm : link
so I doubt any sort of impropriety.
RE: Lawyers fight for justice  
Jim in Fairfax : 1/12/2018 10:08 pm : link
In comment 13785420 Sarcastic Sam said:
Quote:
so I doubt any sort of impropriety.

That’s why they bury them 12 feet under instead of 6.

Because deep down, they’re great guys.
Thanks  
jc in c-ville : 1/13/2018 8:09 am : link
Folks.
As Florida is a drawn out process, the standard here is between 5/10k. I gave him 7k.

I suppose my frustration is more on his help than him, himself.


I've been involved with settling 2 estates.  
Diver_Down : 1/13/2018 8:38 am : link
The first one was my grandmother's in PA. It took over 3 years to finally close out.

I'm currently in the process with my mother's estate. It has been 2 years this June. Her situation is a bit different as there was a personal injury suit that was settled after she passed away. The lawyer who represented her also does estates. Because of the large payment from the settlement, he had agreed to process her estate pro-bono being that the settlement was part of her estate. Now, I was there with my mother when she signed the papers agreeing to his representation on her claim. The fee was clear and upfront, but buried in the agreement was besides his fee was the expenses. We just assumed that they would be nominal. The expenses alone were close to $10K.

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