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For the past two years, my wife was a petitioner in a heavily…

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For the past two years...
For the past two years, my wife was a petitioner in a heavily contested conservatorship case in San Diego probate court. Ultimately, my wife prevailed over a distant cousin and was approved by the court as the limited conservator of the person over her mentally disabled adult brother. The competiting petioner was a distant cousin who initiated the contest when my wife's Brother suddenly came into a lot of money due to a personal injury suit. Long story short....our total attorney fees and costs for the duration of the case totaled approximately $85,000. Our attorney filed a petition for fees and appeared at a hearing on December 17, 2009. On January 28th, the judge issued an order reimbursing us back just 25% of all fees and costs. We had waived our evidentiary hearing (with much damaging evidence obtained through discovery) because we agreed to settle for one-half of our fees with the court appointed attorney. A settlement agreement was drawn up and signed by all parties, including the court appointed attorney. The agreement was presented to the judge on 12/17/09 during the hearing. Though we showed good faith and honored our portion of the agreement, the court appointed attorney did not. She had agreed to remove her earlier objection limiting our fees to 25%. She did not remove it and that was the main source that the judge cited in his order on fees limiting us to 25%. Also, the trustee we appointed to manage my wife's brother's trust objected to all of our fees even though she had no familiarity with our case because she draws a portion of her income from the trust (a conflict of interest in my opinion). The trustee even understated the value of the trust by $35,000 and has failed to file an accounting (120 days late) one year from the date the trust was created. Last, the judge actually cited the objection of the competing petitioner, through her attorney in objecting to our fees. Why the judge would think that the bitter losing petitioner in a heavily contested case would support our fees in any manner is absurd. I filed an appeal, have studied up and have done all of the paperwork (forms) and served parties, etc...I feel that I have a very good arguement to appeal the judge's order and I'm a very good persuasive writer. My concern is that only 20 percent of appeals are overturned. Despite the evidence I will present (already on record) and a very strong argument to show that all of the fees and costs expensed by my wife and I were for the benefit of her brother, I still feel that the court won't be fair and won't change anything. Therefore, my question relates to the assumption that we are not successful and the order stands. Because we are simply appealing the judge's orders on fees and asking the appeals court to honor our settlement agreement by increasing the award from 25% to 50% (we would still be walking away from nearly $43,000 that we will never get back) and there's no direct attempt to sue another party, etc...if the judgement remains unchanged, can the court appointed attorney or the attorney for the trustee, or even the attorney for the competiting petioner (if she chooses to respond) come after us for their attorney fees in responding to our brief? My brief is nearly completed and I'm planning to serve on all parties in one week. I'm just hesitant to continue if the court can order us to pay another attorney's fees for simply asking the appeals court to re-consider whether the judge's ruling was fair or not. There's approximately $200,000 remaining in her brother's trust and we are seeking nearly $43,000 instead of $21,000 that the judge initially awarded.
Please advise as your answer will have a bearing on whether I continue my appeal or not.

Thanks
Submitted: 8 years ago.Category: Legal
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Answered in 27 minutes by:
6/25/2010
Lawyer: Richard - Bizlaw, Attorney replied 8 years ago
Richard - Bizlaw
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 10,841
Experience: 30 years experience corporate, litigation, international
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Unless there are some special circumstances, each party is responsible for their own fees. You were not obligated to pay anyone else's attorneys fees and no one else was ordered to pay any of your fees other than the trust. I do not see any such request being accepted by the appeals court on your appeal so I would proceed with your appeal.

 

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