SMITH V. SZEYLLER: PROBATE COURT AUTHORITY FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEE AWARD UNDER THE SUBSTANTIAL BENEFIT DOCTRINE FOR SUCCESSFUL BENEFICIARIES
By Denise E. Chambliss, Esq.* and James R. Cummins, Esq.**
Trusts and estates attorneys are often presented with a familiar scenario: a beneficiary has concerns about a trustee’s administration of a trust and seeks counsel to ensure that the trustee is acting consistently with the trustee’s fiduciary duties, including the duty to account. In the case of a suspected or discovered breach of trust, the beneficiary’s options could be limited to litigation, an uncertain, expensive, and time-consuming endeavor, with the American Fee Rule potentially requiring the beneficiary to bear the financial burden of their legal expenses to obtain redress and recovery through the probate court.