What should I do if my attorney wants to putall assetsinto probate possibly in order to pad his fees?

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What should I do if my attorney wants to putall assetsinto probate possibly in order to pad his fees?

I live in PA and my attorney wants to put everything into probate. It’s to my understanding that IRA’s, annuities, life insurance, etc, that have a beneficiary are considered non-probate items and should not go into probate. I brought this to his attention and he said he wanted to probate an annuity my father had that I was the beneficiary of. It appears that he is following the Johnson estate fee guidelines. He gets 5% for probate and 1% for non-probate. It seems like he wants the 5% instead of 1%. What should I do?

Asked on June 2, 2011 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First, there are some grounds for putting all the assets through the estate, into probate--it can ensure they all follow the directions of a will, it provides a degree of certainty and finality to the disposition, etc. That's not to say it always is, or is here, the right decision, but it's not a given that this is wrong.

On the other hand, if the attorney is recommending choices that are bad for his client, that run against his clear instructions or against the directions contained in wills, on insurance forms, etc., then he may be committing malpractice and/or an ethical breach. If you hired this attorney, you may--and should--fire him if you don't trust him. If he's not under your control but you're worried, try contacting the state bar association and/or the office of the court that regulates attorneys and explain the situation to them; there may be grounds to dismiss this lawyer from the representation.


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