HB 625 Changes Attorney Fee Structure For Tampa Estate Planning
Understanding estate law vernacular is complicated enough as it is. Trustee, representative, settlor, and decedent are all terms many clients struggle to make sense of. But what about the fee schedules cost of opening an estate? Of course, there are attorney fees associated with opening an estate and completing administrative tasks, but what about other fees based on the estate size? HB 625, which went into effect on October 1, 2021, changes the statutory fee schedule for Florida estate administration.
What is HB 625?
House Bill 625, sponsored by Representative Yarborough and Senator Bean, requires an estate law attorney to make disclosures about the fee schedule upfront to potential estate law and probate clients. Previously, estate law attorneys were permitted to charge a fee relative to the size or complexity of an estate if it was in accordance with the statutory fee schedule. While the fee schedule itself is not changing, attorneys are now required to make certain disclosures to clients and potential clients in advance.
These disclosures include indicating:
- There is no mandatory fee for trust and estate administration;
- An attorney fee is not required to be based on estate size, and the reasonable presumption standard may not be appropriate for all estates;
- A fee may be negotiated by the estate’s personal representative and the attorney
- An attorney may be selected by either the personal representative of the estate or the trustee
- The personal representative and/or trustee may request a summary of services rendered by the attorney (in addition to the invoice) at the conclusion of representation.
Additional Information About Disclosures
These disclosures are mandatory and the lawyer must obtain signatures from the client affirming their understanding of each disclosure prior to moving forward with representation. The new law states that if the attorney does not obtain signed disclosures from each client, they must either petition the court of jurisdiction for payment or seek written consent of all interested parties to an estate administration or probate proceeding prior to seeking compensation for services rendered.
The new law also changes the method for requesting an increase or decrease in attorney’s fees related to estate administration. The court of jurisdiction may now consider evidence of a written fee agreement or retainer agreement between the attorney and client in determining what fee is reasonable, in addition to whether or not disclosures were timely signed.
What Does This Mean for Clients?
The new law is meant to increase transparency between an attorney and the client(s) about associated fees in managing an estate or navigating a probate action. It only applies to estate administration and probate, not estate planning. If you are a potential client and have questions about what you may expect to pay to administer a loved one’s estate in Tampa, you should have a rough estimate of the size of the estate, what property the decedent owned, whether there are disputed claims to the estate, and if the decedent had a trust as well.
Our Tampa estate planning attorneys at Strategic Counsel Law Group have incorporated the requirements of H.B. 625 into our daily practice and are here for our clients should they have any questions or concerns. If you need help navigating the opening or closing an estate or probate administration, call our Tampa estate lawyers today.