Surrogate Rita Mella

In two contested trust accounting proceedings, the parties filed stipulations withdrawing most of the objections by settlor’s child, Ellison, except those challenging counsel fees to the out-going and accounting co-trustee. The firm sought over $240,000 in fees for work already billed, additional fees to be billed to prepare decrees and bring the matters to conclusion, and disbursements. Ellison objected to the necessity to incur various time charges, including those responding to discrete and limited document requests. She also contested fees for work performed after objections were filed. The court found Ellison’s objections made “some cogent criticisms” of time counsel spent on certain matters. It found demands made were discrete and only sought documents that should have been readily accessible to petitioner despite counsel’s alleged need to go through “voluminous files” to locate proper documents. Yet, the court found the legal fee requested was fair and reasonable, thus approved, except that the amount requested was reduced by $14,545.75 as the court found the number of hours spent, and the hourly rate charged for the document review were excessive. Counsel is permitted an additional $1,000 to finalize matters and settle the decrees.