Los Angeles, CA asked in Probate for California

Q: How can a probate lawyer, when they know my sister and I receive ssi, charge us 21,000.00?

And it's not over, they know my sister and I receive ssi. I asked before I even hired them approximately how much it would cost, he told me about 10,000.00 now he's telling us is going to cost for paternity, subpoena, and whatever else is going to happen. I thought when you hire a lawyer they are able to obtain all documentation to prove true or false, they are even telling me they weren't able to get certain info because they didn't have a court order. My sister and I have done most of the legwork,they don't even call or write us for updates just updates on what we owe them

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1 Lawyer Answer
Priscilla Ann Madrid
Priscilla Ann Madrid
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Anaheim Hills, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Speaking from experience, it is often very difficult in the beginning to do more than estimate what a client's attorneys fees will be. A lot of it depends on the opposing parties and how much work you have to do to address issues raised by them. Probate attorneys fees for the executor or administrator when dealing with decedent's intestate estates or when there is a will but no trust are statutory. However, when someone contests a probate and/or proposed distribution as it appears you are based upon the need to address paternity issues, the fees are not set by statute. You can under certain circumstances ask the court to have your attorney's fees paid out of another parties share of the estate. Under the circumstances you describe it appears your attorneys will seek to recover their fees from your share of the inheritance.

With that said, your attorney should communicate with you on the status of your case whenever you need information and should report regularly to you when significant events occur in your case. If you feel the services your attorney has provided are inadequate, find another. Although I have seen retainer agreements that state you cannot fire your attorney, those types of agreements are unenforceable and you can fire your attorney and hire whomever you want. Or if you want to you can file a substitution of attorney substituting yourself in pro per in place of your current attorney, but that can pose problems for you in future proceedings if you do not understand the requirements of a probate matter. Your current attorney will still seek fees regardless, so you will need to address that when the issue arises.

Best of luck,

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