As personal representative of the Estate, Gary T. Faulkner hired lawyers to assist in the administration of an estate. The Estate consisted of only $4,500.00 in personal property as well as a home that sold for $150,000.00. The lawyers charged $39,869 for legal services.
Mr. Faulkner filed a petition for review of compensation of the Estate pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 733.6175 as we as Fla.R.Pro 5.355. The lawyers moved to dismiss on the grounds that the statute required Mr. Faulkner to interplead himself as personal representative as a respondent to his petition, and the underlying Probate Court granted the motion. Mr. Faulkner appealed.
The Second District found the probate court possessed exclusive jurisdiction over the matter of compensation in lieu of the Florida Bar. The Second District rejected the lawyers’ argument that the Probate Court did not have jurisdiction to review the reasonableness of the fees because the fees were paid from the proceeds of the sale of homestead property, which is a non-probate asset. The fact that an attorney may be paid from sources separate from the estate did not divest the probate court of its authority to determine whether the fees charged are reasonable.
The personal representative may petition the probate court to review the reasonableness of attorney’s fees pursuant to § 733.6175, and as the party seeking fees, the lawyers had the burden of proof to establish that their fees were reasonable.
Faulkner v. Woodruff, No. 2D13-2165, 2015 WL 968723, (Fla. 2d DCA. Mar. 6, 2015)