This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






In Re:  Estate of

Raymond J. Connelly, Deceased.


Filed February 26, 2002

Klaphake, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. P0985164


David Hvistendahl, Hvistendahl & Moersch, P.A., 311 South Water Street, P.O. Box 651, Northfield, MN  55057 (for appellant law firm)


Robert J. Shane, 10 South Fifth Street, #700, Minneapolis, MN  55403; and


Joseph Schmidt, The Kenosha, Suite 4, 1204 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, MN  55403 (for respondents)


            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Hvistendahl & Moersch, P.A. (Hvistendahl), a law firm retained by the personal representative of the estate of Raymond J. Connelly, appeals from the district court’s order awarding it $12,530 in attorney fees and $1,199 in costs associated with Hvistendahl’s recovering approximately $30,000 wrongfully taken by Connelly’s property caretaker.  When Connelly’s heirs objected to the final account on Connelly’s estate, the court held a hearing on the matter and awarded less than half of Hvistendahl’s claimed fees and costs.  Because the district court considered factors appropriate and relevant to the reasonableness of attorney fees and because the court’s findings are supported by the evidence and not clearly erroneous, we affirm.[1]


            The district court’s award of a reasonable amount of attorney fees is a factual determination that will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.  In re Estate of Balafas, 302 Minn. 512, 516, 225 N.W.2d 539, 541 (1975); In re Estate of Weisberg, 242 Minn. 150, 152, 64 N.W.2d 370, 372 (1954).

            Hvistendahl argues that its claim for fees is governed by Minn. Stat. § 524.3-720 (2000) and that the district court’s use of criteria set out in Minn. Stat. § 525.515(b) (2000) renders its decision flawed.  We disagree.  These two statutes are not mutually exclusive and appear to overlap:  both allow an estate to compensate an attorney who performs services for the estate, as long as the claimed fees are “reasonable.”

            Moreover, the factors set out in Minn. Stat. § 525.515(b) include:  (1) the time and labor required; (2) the experience and knowledge of the attorney; (3) the complexity and novelty of the problems involved; (4) the extent of the responsibilities assumed and the results obtained; and (5) the sufficiency of the assets available to pay for the services.  These factors are comprehensive and similar to those used by attorneys to define a “reasonable” fee.  See Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.5(a).  Thus, the district court did not err by considering factors similar to those set out in Minn. Stat. § 525.515(b) in determining whether the fees and costs claimed by Hvistendahl were reasonable.

            The district court reduced Hvistendahl’s attorney fees claim to $12,530 after considering the following:  (1) the amount requested is “strikingly disproportionate to the amount received and the complexity of the case”; (2) a review of the billings indicates that many entries and charges were not necessary; (3) Hvistendahl was “somewhat dilatory is pursuing this litigation”; and (4) the issues in the underlying litigation were not “sufficiently complex to justify the hours billed for research, file review and memos to the file.”  The court also reduced Hvistendahl’s claim of $2,866 in costs to $1,199, after considering that many charges were “not appropriate,” such as those incurred for word processing, postage, telephone, and secretarial.  Given our review of the evidence and record in this case, we conclude that the court’s findings on the reasonableness of fees and costs are not clearly erroneous.

            Hvistendahl finally argues that it is entitled to fees and costs for this appeal under Minn. Stat. § 524.3-720.  Hvistendahl has not properly filed a motion under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 139.06.  We therefore deny its request for fees on appeal.


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1]  Hvistendahl also requested an additional $5,000 in fees for preparation of its motion and for sanctions against respondents and their attorney under Minn. R. Civ. P. 11.  On appeal, Hvistendahl does not specifically challenge the district court’s denial of these requests.  We do not address the district court’s decision on these issues.