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ESTATE NICHOLAS N. SONOVICK. APPEAL NORMA RENFORS (05/04/88)

filed: May 4, 1988.

IN RE ESTATE OF NICHOLAS N. SONOVICK. APPEAL OF NORMA RENFORS, TRUSTEE OF THE TRUST CREATED UNDER THE WILL OF NICHOLAS N. SONOVICK, DECEASED


Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Division, of Bucks County at No. 53055.

COUNSEL

Peter J. Verderame, Langhorn, for appellant.

Cavanaugh, Rowley and Popovich, JJ.

Author: Popovich

[ 373 Pa. Super. Page 397]

This is an appeal from an order of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas which reduced the fees and commissions

[ 373 Pa. Super. Page 398]

    paid to an executrix/trustee and her counsel. The appellant, Norma Renfors, is both executrix of the decedent's estate and trustee of a trust created under the provisions of the decedent's will. Prior to adjudication by the lower court, the appellant and her counsel charged the estate and trust fees and commissions totaling $8,000.00. The court reduced the fees and commissions paid to the appellant and her counsel from the estate and trust to a total of $3,000.00. We affirm the order of court.

The appellant questions whether the lower court had a reasonable basis for finding that the fees and commissions were excessive. She argues that fees and commissions are not presumed to be excessive merely because an objector makes that assertion without presenting supporting evidence or testimony. She further contends that the executrix and/or trustee do not bear any burden to present testimony relevant to the reasonableness of the fees and commissions until the objector has proffered evidence pertinent to that issue.

The appellee, Sara Jane Sonovick, divorced spouse of the decedent and mother of the decedent's children, Adam and Dayna Sonovick, filed objections to the accounts stated in the decedent's estate and the trust created by his will. She filed the objections on behalf of her children, Adam and Dayna, who were the principal beneficiaries under the trust. The lower court resolved all but one objection raised by the appellee in favor of the appellant, Norma Renfors, executor and trustee under the will.

Reasoning that the fees and commissions paid out of the estate and trust were excessive, the court reduced the payments made to the appellant and her counsel. The fees and commissions charged on a gross estate of $34,907.54 and paid to the executrix and her counsel amounted to $1,500.00 each. In addition, the fees and commissions charged on a gross trust corpus of $141,850.88 and paid to the trustee and her counsel equaled $2,500.00 each. During the period of January 19, 1984 through March 31, 1985, the trust account accumulated over $8,000.00 in income,

[ 373 Pa. Super. Page 399]

    while disbursements to the beneficiaries totaled only $400.00. After reviewing the accounts, the court ordered the fees and commissions paid from the estate to the executrix and her counsel reduced to $750.00 each and the fees and commissions paid from the trust to the trustee and her counsel reduced to $750.00 each. The court then entered said order on June 25, 1987, and this appeal followed.

A fiduciary is entitled to "reasonable and just" compensation for the services he provides. In Re Ischy Trust, 490 Pa. 71, 82, 415 A.2d 37, 42 (1980); Williamson Estate, 368 Pa. 343, 349, 82 A.2d 49 (1951); 20 Pa.C.S.A. ยง 7185(a).*fn1 Thus, the fiduciary's entitlement to compensation should be based upon actual services rendered and not upon some arbitrary formula. In Re Estate of Breyer, 475 Pa. 108, 379 A.2d ...


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