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Personal representative to estate entitled to compensation at $90 per hour, rather than the $200 he requested

Holding that the probate court's decision to order compensation to the appellant-PR at the rate of $90 per hour instead of the requested $200 per hour "was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances," the court affirmed the order. The PR administered the decedent's estate as provided for in the decedent's will. The estate was worth approximately $764,000. It included two residences, bank accounts, an annuity, and vendor interests in several land contracts. After the PR filed a final accounting for the estate, he requested compensation for 91 hours of work at $200 per hour. He testified that his hourly rate represented a 20% reduction from the rate he usually billed his clients in his insurance agency and was based on his 35 years of experience in the insurance business. The probate court, however, determined that the PR's "experience and the nature of the work performed was commensurate with that of a fiduciary that would normally charge $90 per hour." Thus, "it approved a total fee of $8,190, which amounted to 91 hours at $90 per hour." On appeal, the PR argued the probate court abused its discretion when it approved a fee that was more than 50% lower than he requested. The court noted that the probate court considered the PR's "income level, the services rendered, the time spent on estate administration, the nature and complexity of administration, the existence of any animosity between the persons involved, and his skills. The administration of this estate was straightforward. It did not involve a great number of creditors or beneficiaries, and it did not require a high level of expertise or skill to finalize the estate." Further, the PR did not "have unusual professional expertise that would entitle him to a premium rate." He submitted the fee schedules of two banks to the probate court. Relying on these schedules, he contended that the one bank would have cost the estate over $22,000 and the other would have charged a base fee of $3,000 plus an hourly rate of $150 per hour for its trust officer's time. The court found that both comparisons were "inapposite." The fee that the first bank would have allegedly charged was based on a percentage fee arrangement, not on an hourly rate, and the second bank's fee schedule actually supported the probate court's determination, as the PR was the "equivalent to a non-trust officer with an hourly rate of $80."

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