How does an Estate Lawyer inPhiladelphiaset fees?

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Our courts have ruled that Estate Lawyers inPhiladelphiacan only charge reasonable fees. Of course that leaves the key question of what is a reasonable fee up in the air.  Our courts take into consideration the complexity of the Estate, the time expended by the Estate Lawyer, his or her experience and education as factors.

All Estates require certain routine services to be preformed.  The question of a fee’s reasonableness is reviewed in every Estate by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue in reviewing Inheritance Tax returns and the Pennsylvania Attorney General when a charity is involved.  Both the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and the Attorney General have guidelines as to the reasonableness of an attorney’s fee based upon the size of the gross estate, but they will not publish those guidelines. In 1980 a Judge wrote an opinion in the Johnson Estate case that attached the guidelines of either the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue or the Attorney General to it.

Both the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue deny the Johnson Estate fee schedule is their 1980 guidelines but admit they are pretty close.   Although there are no higher court rulings a number of Orphans’ Court judges have ruled that the Johnson Estate Fee schedule will be accepted as a reasonable fee for an attorney performing routine services in an Estate.  If the fee is larger than the Johnson Estate fee schedule the attorney will have to demonstrate he or she was required to spend more time because non-routine services were required, usually litigation between beneficiaries or taxing authorities.  I will agree to a fee for routine services based upon the Johnson Estate fee schedule even though it is based upon 1980 rates.  This is because an experienced Estate Lawyer inPhiladelphiahas purchased proprietary soft wear that has reduced the amount of hours required to settle an estate.  I pass this savings on to my clients.

Many clients only look at the gross fee and then compare each fee selecting their attorney based upon fee only.  This is a costly mistake.  The gross fee is not what the services of an attorney cost a client. There are many other factors to consider.  All fees are deductible for Pennsylvania Inheritance tax purposes.  That reduces the fee by between 4.5% and 15%. If you retain the services of and experienced Estate lawyer inPhiladelphiahe will know how to pass his fee through to the beneficiaries so they may deduct it from their personal income taxes and therefore reduce the fee further with their tax savings.  Further, an experienced estate lawyer in Philadelphia can settle certain debts at a fraction of the amounts owed even through the Estate has more than enough funds to pay the obligation in full.  I have represented clients in Estates where the savings were so substantial that the attorney’s fee did not cost the estate anything.  The key to selecting an attorney is not the fee but should take into consideration the attorney’s experience and education and the net cost of the fee.

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