Probate Court Has Lots of Discretion In These Types of Fee Matters.
Justice Moore, on behalf of a 3-0 panel in Vaughn v. Mahurin, Case No. G048636 (4th Dist., Div. 3 Mar. 4, 2014) (unpublished), acknowledged what we have seen from reviewing “Probate” posts over a number of years—probate courts have lots of discretion in awarding fees unless one is talking about capped, routine probate expenses of a non-extraordinary nature.
In this one, adult stepchildren challenged trust decisions by trustee stepmother, who was married to the deceased trustor former husband for over 40 years, even though these decisions were validated in probate court rulings by and large. The stepkids appealed various rulings, including an allocation of attorney’s fees in stepmom’s favor.
As with other trust decisions by the probate court, the probate court’s fee allocations were affirmed.
After all, stepmom did get clarification of trust terms and fended off stepkids’ challenges of fiduciary duty breaches. So, the probate court did not err in finding she should recoup some fees (one-half) for activities benefitting the trust. (Whittlesey v. Aiello, 104 Cal.App.4th 1221, 1226-1227, 1230 (2002).) Also, she was entitled to some fees for trust split work, even though the attorney did not do a perfect job in the “splitting” process.
Cinderella. 1950. Disney. The Evil Stepmother.