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Estate attorney fee bill passes Legislature

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Rep. Clay Yarborough

Rep. Clay Yarborough

Fee disclosures from attorneys hired by estate personal representatives or trust administrators will be required under a bill heading to the governor after action by the Florida House.

The House voted 113-1 to approve HB 625 on April 29. The bill requires lawyers to discuss fees and the ability to hire a different attorney when they are hired as part of an estate or trust administration. The Senate passed the bill 39-0 on April 22.

The House accepted a Senate amendment that the lawyer must also present a detailed receipt for work performed.

“This amendment represents a good deal of work that all stakeholders have contributed to and represents a good product,” said Rep. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, sponsor of HB 625, just before the bill passed.

The bill, which becomes effective October 1 if signed by the governor, provides that if attorneys want to rely on suggested fee schedules in Florida statutes when they are hired by estate personal representatives or trust administrators they must make certain disclosures.

Those include that the fee schedule is not binding, the personal representative or trust administrator can consult with other lawyers, the fee does not have to be based on the size of the estate or trust, the fee can be negotiated, and the personal representative or trust administrator is not required to use the attorney who prepared the will or trust. The attorney must get a receipt that the client has been told about the disclosures.

If the disclosures are not made, the attorney may not be paid without court approval or the written consent of all interested parties or beneficiaries.

The Senate sponsor, Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, originally proposed a bill without any disclosures, but did away with the advisory fee schedules. That was opposed by the Bar’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section, which said it could lead to higher fees.

The section supported the House version, which kept the suggested fee schedules and added the disclaimers. That passed the House. Bean accepted that version and added the fee receipt requirement when it came to the full Senate.

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