I previously wrote here about the very public litigation involving guardianship proceedings for legendary New York socialite Brooke AstorWell, it’s almost inevitable that part 2 of any guardianship case will be a fight over fees (see generally), and this case is no exception.  The following is an excerpt from In Aftermath of the Astor Case, How the Final Fees Piled Up, a New York Times piece reporting on the case:

The legal drama over the health care and finances of Brooke Astor, New York’s legendary socialite and philanthropist, played out for nearly three months amid allegations and recriminations of financial duplicity, greed and outright forgery.

The case against her son, Anthony D. Marshall, came to a halt on Oct. 13 when the parties in the feud reached a settlement, averting what could have been an expensive and sensational trial scheduled to begin less than a week later.

But everything comes with a price. In the seven weeks since the agreement, those involved in the case have filed bills with Justice John E. H. Stackhouse of State Supreme Court in Manhattan for fees totaling about $3 million for the services of 56 lawyers, 65 legal assistants, 6 accountants, 5 bankers, 6 doctors, 2 public relations firms and a law school professor. Under state law, such payments would come out of Mrs. Astor’s assets, valued at over $120 million.

But yesterday, Justice Stackhouse issued an order that approved a smaller amount, $2.22 million, calling the original figure “staggering” and saying that some charges were for work that was not in the best interest of Mrs. Astor, who is 104. The justice denied payments for the public relations firms, the time lawyers spent talking with reporters and the hours logged preparing the fee applications themselves.

Yikes!!  According to my math the court refused payment of close to $800,000 in fees.  Unless these professionals have fee agreements in place requiring the litigants/their clients to pay their fees, they just did a whole lot of free work for a $120 million+ guardianship estate.

Lesson learned:

In a guardianship case, either you need to be ready to work on a pro bono basis or you need to have an engagement agreement in place requiring whomever hires you to personally pay your fees if the court wont authorize payment of your fees from the guardianship estate.  The risk of the court refusing payment of fees will be borne by someone, just make sure that if it’s going to be you the decision is a conscious one.

Source: Death and Taxes – The Blog