Can a trustee, who is also a lawyer, pay themselves legal fees on top of the fee they receive?

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Can a trustee, who is also a lawyer, pay themselves legal fees on top of the fee they receive?

Im the beneficiary and my trustee is also a lawyer. She receives her agreed
amount for her mantaining the trust but also billed the trust for lawyers fee.
I have not hired her to act as my lawyer.

Asked on November 12, 2017 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

IF the trust legitimately needs legal representation, and IF 1) she can provide it (has the experience, etc.) and 2) her rates are competitive and 3) she does not overbill the hours, this is legal and she, as trustee, can hire/pay herself. Basically, if there has to be a lawyer and she is as good as any and is charging the same or less as others, it can be her.
But if there is no legitimate need, or she is not qualified, or is overbilling, this would be improper and she would be violating her duties as trustee (for example: her fiduciary duty, which all trustees have) to effectively divert trust money to her own firm when it is not otherwise appropriate to do.


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