Surrogate Peter Kelly
Decedent’s executor, his daughter Dispensa, alleged respondent lawyer took advantage of her and charged an excessive fee for the probate of the estate. She sought reimbursement of amounts previously paid, amounting to 5 percent of the value of the gross taxable estate under a retainer agreement. Respondent moved for dismissal, arguing that as the estate was fully administered, distribution was made and legal fees were completely paid, the court no longer retained jurisdiction over the matter. The court disagreed, finding it had authority to determine issues regarding fees involving an estate under Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act §2110, even after the attorney’s services were completed. It noted while the existence of a retainer was persuasive, it was not prohibitive of the court’s exercise of its review powers. The court found petitioner sufficiently demonstrated a cause of action, concluding that an evidentiary trial regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the retainer agreement was necessary to determine if it was understood by Dispensa and if it was fair and reasonable. Therefore, respondent’s motion to dismiss the petition was denied.