Matter Reversed and Remanded to Determine Value of Attorney’s Lien in Trust.
Novak v. Kay, Case No. B256889 (2d Dist., Div. 5 Apr. 28, 2015) (published) involved an attorney with broad contractual attorney’s fees language in a retainer letter with a client who died but who was determined to be a pretermitted spouse having an interest with a separate trust with assets. The lower court denied the attorney’s effort to enforce the lien through a probate petition, based on the theory that attorney did not timely file a creditor’s claim against deceased client’s estate. The appellate court reversed, determining that an equitable lienholder like attorney did not have to file a creditor’s claim or initiate an independent action to foreclose the lien under Probate Code section 9391. It also remanded the matter so that the probate court could determine the value of lawyer’s interest in the trust.
BLOG UNDERVIEW—This case is must reading for counsel inserting attorney lien provisions in retention agreements because it quotes the broad contractual charging lien language which was honored on appeal.