Whether you are the executor of an estate or a beneficiary, you may be embroiled in estate litigation. You want a skilled lawyer to fight your case. However, the costs of litigation can be substantial. Thus, you’d probably like to know, Who pays attorney litigation fees for an estate in Texas? Below, we explain who covers estate litigation fees in Texas. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact our Texas estate planning attorneys at Robbins Estate Law.
Who Pays Estate Litigation Attorney Fees?
Who pays attorney litigation fees for an estate in Texas depends on your role in the estate and the validity of your legal claims. Generally, in an estate litigation case, two potential parties wonder who is responsible for estate litigation fees:
- The executor of the estate, and
- A named or purported beneficiary.
All parties may believe the estate should cover their attorney fees. However, the estate doesn’t cover all litigation expenses for all claims.
Executor’s Attorney Fees
Under Texas law, the estate covers the executor’s litigation costs and attorney fees when they act in good faith. The executor works for the estate. Sometimes litigation is a necessary part of the executor’s work. Thus, the estate covers the executor’s litigation and attorney costs.
An executor must act in good faith when defending the will for the estate to cover their attorney fees. If they act in good faith, and a court finds against them, then the estate still pays their reasonable litigation costs. However, if the executor is mismanaging the estate or acting in bad faith, a court may find the estate should not cover the executor’s litigation expenses.
Beneficiary’s Attorney Fees
Whether a beneficiary has their attorney fees covered by the estate is not as straightforward as the case of the executor. Under Texas law, the estate “may” reimburse a beneficiary for attorney fees. This means a court may deny a beneficiary’s request to have the estate pay their attorney fees, particularly if the beneficiary was acting in bad faith.
The requirement that a beneficiary act in good faith means they can’t bring a case against the estate just because they don’t like what the will said or think it’s unfair and expect the estate to cover their expenses. Instead, the beneficiary must have a legitimate legal claim. The court will not allow a beneficiary to reduce the value of the estate and thereby harm other beneficiaries if the claim is frivolous.
Valid Legal Claims
One of the ways a court decides if a beneficiary is acting in good faith is whether they have a meritorious legal claim. Some legal claims beneficiaries can bring include:
- The will didn’t follow the formalities required by Texas law;
- The testator (i.e., the person who made the will) did not have the mental capacity to make a valid will;
- The testator was under undue influence;
- Someone gave the testator false information; or
- The executor breached their fiduciary duty.
Some claims involve what the testator did or what their state of mind was when they made their will. However, a breach of fiduciary duty claim requires a determination about whether the executor is carrying out their work with the high degree of loyalty, care, diligence, and skill required of them under Texas law. These claims are complex. You should consult with an experienced estate attorney before proceeding.
Estate or Share Reduction for Attorney Fees Reimbursement
If a court agrees the estate should cover the beneficiary’s reasonable attorney fees, then the costs will be deducted from the estate. This means the estate will lose value, and each beneficiary will probably receive less property or money. Because of this, sometimes the court will allow a beneficiary to recover their attorney fees only from their share of the estate unless the litigation helped all of the beneficiaries, such as a breach of fiduciary duty claim brought against the executor.
What Are Included in Attorney Estate Litigation Fees?
Before you decide to challenge a will, you may like to know what are litigation fees. Estate litigation typically includes the following expenses.
Attorney Fees and Costs
This includes reasonable attorney fees, typically an hourly amount based on their experience and other factors. It also includes expenses the attorney may incur during the representation.
Litigants typically have to pay court filing fees for their lawsuits. Plus, they may also have to pay photocopying and other court costs.
Expert Witness Costs
Depending on the claim, you may need expert witnesses. Expert witnesses may be needed to examine the deceased person’s handwriting, inspect the estate’s financials, or assess the deceased person’s mental state.
Contact Our Estate Attorneys For Estate Litigation
The answer to who pays attorney litigation fees for an estate in Texas varies. However, with Robbins Estate Law, you don’t have to worry about coming up with attorney fees upfront if you have a legitimate estate claim. We offer contingency fee arrangements for our clients, which means that we cover the up-front costs of litigation and only collect our fee if you recover. We understand the stress of estate litigation and want to fight to protect your interests. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.