Assignment of Interests in Probated Estates Focuses on Probate Code section 11604.
Part of doing this blog is that we get to learn different substantive areas. Today, we learned something in the area of probate law.
In Estate of Castrillo, Case No. A133446 (1st Dist., Div. 4 June 28, 2012) (unpublished), an heir entitled to a distributive share from a probate estate assigned to his attorney collection of fees through estate distributions in a fee retention agreement. However, the probate court failed to honor such assignment, although the transcript indicated that the lower court might have gotten rattled somewhat during the course of a heavy probate calendar. That caused a reversal so that a re-sort could be done.
Probate Code section 11604 does allow an attorney to be secure in payment of fees and expenses from a client in a probate matter by way of an assignment from the distributive share of client heir, with there being lots of probate court supervision on the reasonableness of the assignment or reasonableness of the fee request. Interestingly enough, the provision was originally designed to protect beneficiaries from “heir hunters,” but has been applied to assignees (which would include attorneys). A lien assignment against a distributive share can be enforced under section 11604, and it is error for a probate court to refuse to honor a valid assignment.
Given this state of the law, the matter had to be reconsidered to see if there was some legal impediment to honoring the assignment.