This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re Estate of Leantha Zeno.
Filed May 31, 2005
Ramsey County District Court
File No. P6025563
Sally K. Mortenson, 15025 Glazier Avenue, Suite 230, Apple Valley, MN 55124 (for appellant Joseph Moore)
Ronald J. Riach, Franke & Riach, P.A., 1000 County Road E West, Suite 200, Shoreview, MN 55126 (for respondents Amy Moore, Rodney Moore and Gina Moore)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
This is an appeal from an order requiring the personal representative of an estate to pay attorney fees to a lawyer who performed legal services at the direction of a predecessor personal representative. Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by awarding attorney fees incurred during the time that respondent Amy Moore served as personal representative of decedent’s estate. Because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm.
Leantha Zeno died on May 15, 2002. She left her entire probate estate to her grandson, appellant Joseph Moore, who was appointed personal representative of the estate. Zeno had seven other surviving grandchildren, and three of them, respondents Amy Moore, Rodney Moore, and Gina Moore, objected to the probate of Zeno’s will.
The district court held that
Zeno’s will was invalid and appointed Amy Moore as personal representative of the
estate. Joseph Moore appealed, and this
court reversed the district court’s order, finding that the will was validly
executed. In re Estate of Zeno,
672 N.W.2d 574 (
Ronald J. Riach, the lawyer who represented respondents during their challenge of Zeno’s will and who performed legal services at the direction of Amy Moore while she was the appointed personal representative of Zeno’s estate, filed a claim against the estate for attorney fees. The district court determined that Riach was entitled to attorney fees for legal services performed at the direction of Amy Moore while she served as the appointed personal representative and ordered Joseph Moore as personal representative of the Zeno estate to pay Riach $4,308.08. Joseph Moore appeals.
D E C I S I O N
Joseph Moore argues that the
district court abused its discretion by awarding attorney fees to Riach. This court will reverse an award or denial of
attorney fees only when the district court has abused its discretion. Becker v. Alloy Hardfacing & Eng’g Co.,
401 N.W.2d 655, 661 (
The district court awarded attorney
fees under Minn. Stat. § 525.515(a), which provides that “an attorney
performing services for the estate at the instance of the personal
representative . . . shall have such compensation therefor out of the estate as
shall be just and reasonable.”
After the district court invalidated Zeno’s will and appointed Amy Moore as personal representative, Amy Moore directed Riach to respond to the ensuing appeal. As the appointed personal representative of the estate, Amy Moore had the authority, on behalf of the estate, to hire Riach for this purpose. The district court determined that Riach’s legal services benefited the estate because the result was a final determination of the validity of Zeno’s will. We find no error and conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding attorney fees to Riach.
Joseph Moore also argues that the district court erred by ordering him to personally pay the attorney fees, rather than ordering the estate to do so. But the district court’s order clearly states that the lawyer is “entitled to compensation from the estate of Leantha Zeno.” Nothing in the order makes Joseph Moore personally liable for attorney fees, and his argument is, therefore, without merit.
By notice of review, respondents
argue that the district court should not have limited the award of attorney fees
to fees incurred during the time that Amy Moore served as the appointed
personal representative of the Zeno estate.
Respondents contend that the district court should have awarded additional
attorney fees under that portion of Minn. Stat. § 524.3-720 that allows a
court to award necessary expenses, including attorney fees, to “any interested
person who successfully opposes the allowance of a will.”
Respondents also argue that the district court should have awarded attorney fees under that portion of Minn. Stat. § 524.3-720 that provides:
[W]hen, and to the extent that, the services of an attorney for any interested person contribute to the benefit of the estate, as such, as distinguished from the personal benefit of such person, such attorney shall be paid such compensation from the estate as the court shall deem just and reasonable and commensurate with the benefit to the estate from the recovery so made or from such services.
Id. But this provision contemplates awarding attorney fees “commensurate with the benefit to the estate from the recovery so made or from such services.” Id. Riach performed no legal services that benefited the estate by recovering assets. We conclude, therefore, that the district court did not err by determining that section 524.3-720 does not apply here.
Because the district court did not err in its application of the law and did not abuse its discretion by awarding attorney fees to Riach for legal services rendered at Amy Moore’s direction during the time that she served as the appointed personal representative of Zeno’s estate, and by so limiting the award, we affirm.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.