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How to Pay for an Estate Fight

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Probate litigation is a tug of war between risk and reward.

You engage your law firm to solve problems. You deserve to know what it might take to succeed. You need to be able to discuss this with your law firm. What are the risks? What are the rewards?

Attorney's fees are part of the risks in reaching for the rewards.

While "a lawyer's time and advice are his stock in trade," there are many ways to pay for this time and advice. The alternatives to standard hourly rates include contingency fees, fixed fees and hybrid fees.

Contingency fees allow us to "bet on ourselves" and share the risks of litigation as well as its rewards. Many parties to probate litigation are already frozen-out from their rightful inheritance - this freeze-out includes barred access to the resources to assert their rights in court.

It is often said that contingency fees share the risks and rewards of probate litigation and aligns the interests of attorneys and their clients. This alignment is standard in plaintiffs' personal injury litigation but is less common in probate litigation. While not all probate litigation may be appropriate for contingency fees a discussion of alternative fee arrangements should be a part of early attorney and client meetings.

There is no fixed percentage fee of recovery applicable to all cases. Alternative and early arrangements can include a smaller percentage based on hours expended or tasks accomplished. Contingency percentages may increase with hours expended or tasks accomplished. Fee arrangements will address the advancing of costs. Sometime clients advance all costs in return for a lowered contingency fee. Conversely, when attorneys advance all costs, their own risks increase - and with increased risk comes increased reward.

Probate litigation is emotional and challenging. Contingency fees can soften the initial financial challenges that are part and parcel of probate litigation.

Contingency fee arrangements must be in writing and signed by the client and the attorney or law firm that is engaged in the litigation.

Here at Hackard Law, we have plenty of experience successfully litigating under contingency fee arrangements. Whatever fee structure is ultimately reached, full and open discussion of alternative fee arrangements will benefit both the client and attorney.

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