This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re: Estate of
Filed August 2, 2005
Fillmore County District Court
File No. P4-02-0628
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
Because the district court did not clearly err in its findings or otherwise abuse its discretion by considering factors outside the statutes governing the allowance of such fees, we affirm.
Allowance of personal representative
and attorney fees is a matter largely within the discretion of the district
court; the reasonable value of such services is a question of fact. In re
Estate of Baumgartner, 274
Brekke challenges the district
court’s decision to reduce his claimed rate for his services as a special and
personal representative from $75 to $20 per hour. In reaching this decision, the district court
noted that Brekke failed to produce evidence to support his claim that that was
his usual rate of compensation and that his claimed rate was “much higher than
that of professionals involved in the conservatorship business and employees
and even elected officials of
Brekke first argues that the
district court improperly based its decision on factors outside the statutory
framework of Minn. Stat. § 524.3-719 (2004).
That statute provides that a “personal representative is entitled to
reasonable compensation for services.”
In determining what is reasonable compensation, the court shall give consideration to the following factors:
(1) The time and labor required;
(2) The complexity and novelty of problems involved; and
(3) The extent of the responsibilities assumed and the results obtained.
Contrary to Brekke’s argument, the district court specifically considered these factors. In particular, the court noted that, while serving as special representative, Brekke was responsible for the care of the decedent’s livestock; as personal representative, he deposited checks, paid bills, performed some repairs on the property, and did other work associated with the administration of the estate. The district court reasoned that none of these tasks was so complex or novel so as to warrant compensating Brekke at the rate of $75 per hour, which the court noted was almost twice as high as that of a professional.
Brekke next argues that his claimed rate was entirely reasonable, considering that he (1) successfully identified, marshaled, and protected for distribution an estate worth more than $3 million; (2) handled myriad duties, including identification of assets, farm management, investment management, and recordkeeping for tax purposes; and (3) expeditiously and efficiently secured probate of the estate, including the payment of estate taxes. Although the size of an estate is often a factor to consider when determining reasonable compensation, the $3 million estate here was not complex and consisted almost solely of real estate and cash in local bank accounts. We therefore conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by limiting Brekke’s compensation to $20 per hour.
Brekke argues that the district court abused its discretion when it determined that he should not be paid for work done while he was a special administrator unless those services were specifically related to the care of the farm and livestock. Brekke argues that the court’s decision disregards Minn. Stat. § 524.3-701 (2004), which states that the “powers of a personal representative relate back in time to give acts by the person appointed which are beneficial to the estate occurring prior to appointment the same effect as those occurring thereafter.”
But the district court carefully considered Brekke’s itemized list of hours and the services he claimed he provided during his time as special administrator. The district court granted him compensation for services related to his specified responsibilities during the time he served as special administrator, but disallowed compensation for other services he performed that went beyond caring for the farm and livestock and otherwise preserving the assets until appointment of a personal representative. We conclude that the district court did not clearly err in its findings or otherwise abuse its discretion by disallowing Brekke’s claim for compensation for services that were beyond the scope of his duties as a special administrator.
Brekke argues that the district court erred when it denied compensation for services that his attorney claimed he would perform in connection with the final accounting and its preparation. Brekke cites Minn. Stat. § 525.48 (2004), which states that a final account “shall include the total fees charged to date and estimated future fees to be charged.”
The district court disallowed the attorney’s claim for compensation for 25 hours spent preparing the final accounting. The court found that the attorney “has not itemized his charges enough, rather just presenting the Estate with a lump amount of hours, [that the court] feels is too high for the work allegedly performed by the attorney.” Based on our review of the record, we conclude that the district court did not clearly err in its findings or otherwise abuse its discretion in disallowing attorney fees for these hours.
Brekke challenges the district court’s disallowance of compensation for time spent attempting to sell real property held by the estate. The district court disallowed compensation for time spent on this activity after November 16, 2003, because the court issued an order on that date directing Brekke to distribute this property “among the heirs per statutory requirements.” Despite requests by respondents to distribute the real estate according to this order, Brekke continued in his attempts to sell the property. Respondents brought a second petition for distribution, and on April 9, 2004, the district court ordered that Brekke distribute the real estate to the heirs and file the final account within 15 days.
Brekke insists that because the first order failed to specify a date for distribution or the manner of distribution, it was permissible for him to continue to spend time considering distribution options. In their statements for services rendered, both Brekke and his attorney claim hours for time spent attempting to sell the property after the November 16, 2003 order. Because these services were in contravention of the court’s order and not beneficial to the estate, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying compensation for these services.
Brekke argues that the district
court erred when it disallowed time spent by his attorney with another heir,
The district court’s decisions are affirmed.
 Brekke sought more than $50,000 in compensation for his services as a personal representative and more than $50,000 in attorney fees. After reducing Brekke’s rate from $75 to $20 per hour, and further disallowing some of the claimed hours, the district court granted Brekke $7,344 for his services as special and personal representative, and $40,668 for attorney fees.
 Brekke also cites Minn. Stat. § 524.3-616 (2004), which gives the special administrator the “duty to collect and manage the assets of the estate, preserve them, to account therefore and to deliver them to the general personal representative upon qualification.” This statute, however, specifically applies to a special administrator who is “appointed by the registrar in informal proceedings,” not to a special administrator like Brekke, who was appointed by the district court in a formal proceeding.