Lopez v. Hernandez
Lopez v. Hernandez, 291 So.3d 1007
This decision deals with the ability of the probate court to impose personal liability for attorney’s fees and costs. Here, the court entered an order addressing fees and costs sought by the attorney for one of two feuding brothers. The attorney represented one of the brothers as personal representative of their father’s estate. The probate court found that the brother had engaged in frivolous litigation on the estate’s behalf, awarded his attorney fees and costs, divided responsibility for those fees between the estate and the brother, personally, and imposed a charging lien on the brother’s portion of the estate.
The Court considered whether the probate court erred in charging the attorney’s fees against the brother’s portion of the estate and imposing the charging lien. It held that while F.S. 733.106(4) allows probate courts to direct the payment of attorney’s fees out of a beneficiary’s portion of an estate, it does not allow the probate court to impose personal liability for the estate’s attorney’s fees and costs. Further, it held that the charging lien was not appropriate under these circumstances, as the attorney provided the estate with no judgment or recovery, and instead simply administered the estate.