A typical dilemma that we see our will contest clients face is trying to figure out how to pay for a will contest when the person on the other side controls all the Decedent’s money. If you have limited funds and your opponent has unlimited funds, this puts you at a severe disadvantage.
The usual scenario runs something like this:
As mom is laying on her death bed, she is either mentally incapacitated or she is vulnerable to undue influence because her physically deteriorated condition. In the mentally/physically weakened state mom is coerced into changing her will to name “evil daughter” as sole beneficiary and into naming evil daughter as joint tenant right of survivorship or payable on death on mom’s bank accounts. When mom dies, evil daughter has immediate access to mom’s accounts without even having to probate mom’s will or having the court appoint her as executor of the estate.
When evil daughter finally gets around to submitting mom’s latest will for probate and her siblings realize what has happened, they decide to seek representation from an attorney.
What the siblings discover is that it will cost them at least $5,000, perhaps $10,000, just to retain a lawyer, never mind the total cost. Evil sister has no problem retaining an attorney for $10,000 because she has access to mom’s money. What are the siblings to do?
On the right estate litigation case with the right clients, we will agree to an arrangement called a contingency fee. In a contingent fee arrangement on a probate litigation case our clients pay no money up front. If we are unable to recover for the client, the client pays nothing. If we are able to recover then our firm receives a percentage of the assets recovered in addition to being reimbursed for our out-of-pocket expenses.
We like working on a contingency fee basis for several reasons. First, when we handle an estate litigation case on a contingency fee we feel like our interests and the client’s interests are completely aligned. The more money we recover, the greater our fee. The less money we recover, the less fee we earn.
Second, being on a contingency fee enables us to outwork our opponents. We love to win, and we are willing to spend any amount of time to beat the other side. Unfortunately, if someone is paying on an hourly fee basis, we cannot always do that because we have to be very conscious of what our client can afford to pay. Winning might take $100,000 worth of time and $15,000 in expenses, but our client may only be able to afford $5,000. With a contingency fee agreement we do not have this problem.
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Please keep in mind that in order to take a matter on a contingent fee basis the value of the client’s (or clients’) share of the estate must be $250,000 or more. If you are interested in discussing whether your case is one that our firm would be willing to take on a contingency fee, then fill out a contact form or call us at 281-242-0995. And remember, the faster you take action, the better your chances are to prevail.
Romano & Sumner, PLLC