Contingency fee arrangements in probate are rare for me. Typically, attorney’s fees are paid in one of two ways: either statutory fees or extraordinary fees. Contingency fee arrangements may come up when statutory fees or extraordinary fees may not apply to a situation.
Recently, a new client told me that he was the heir of a California estate of a person who died without a will (intestate). As my new client was about to receive his distribution from the probate estate, another person made a claim stating that he instead was the sole heir. That claimant filed an objection to the proposed distribution arguing that he had a higher priority to claim the entire estate under the rules of intestate succession than my client had. He argued that since my client was adopted when he was a child, he was no longer related to the decedent and therefore lost his priority as an heir. My client argued that although he was adopted, his relationship with the decedent was not severed because he was the decedent’s sibling and the rules of adoption sever a relationship only as between a parent and a child.
In a situation like this where the California probate attorney is not handling the actual probate and is instead representing an heir, beneficiary or creditor, a contingency fee arrangement may work.