Chatham County Clerk Now Requires Approval of Attorneys Fees in Probate
When I started practicing 20 years ago, Clerks of Court generally required approval of attorneys fees paid in probate proceedings. This required the attorney to spend extra time preparing a Petition and Order for Approval of Attorneys Fees, which of course resulted in an increase in the total fees.
Several years ago the counties in which I primarily practice ended this requirement, which made probate somewhat easier and less expensive. After all, shouldn’t the executor of an estate be in the best position to judge what is reasonable to pay an attorney for his or her services?
We were recently informed that Chatham County now requires approval of attorneys fees once again. This effectively increases the cost of probate in Chatham County by the several hundred dollars attorneys will bill for the preparation of the documents necessary to obtain the approval. In addition, it creates the potential for problems if fees are paid prior to approval and the Clerk then refuses to approve them.
Personally, I am going to charge larger initial retainer fees and amend my client agreement to state that the executor is responsible for payment of my fees even if not approved by the court.
Bottom line – this is yet another reason to avoid probate by using a living trust.