Counsel Fees in Estate Litigation

In a recent Appellate Division Case, in the matter of the Estate of Folcher, the Appellate Division upheld an award of counsel fees to the Estate’s attorney which was very significant in nature. In fact, the counsel fees which were awarded exceeded the claim of the decedent’s wife, who was attempting to defraud the Estate. At the trial level, the decedent’s wife attempted to reduce the counsel fees the Estate’s counsel would receive or prevent counsel fees from being awarded at all. The Appellate Division ruled, however, that if not for the wife’s unlawful conduct, the litigation costs and expenses would have been entirely avoided. Thus, the Court awarded the full amount of the counsel’s fees which counsel for the Estate was seeking even though the amount exceeded the decedent’s wife’s claim.

This case is highly illustrative of the fact that an attorney defending the Estate may be entitled to counsel fees at the conclusion of the case. The unusual part of this case is that the counsel fees awarded vastly exceeded the contesting party’s claim.