A Fee Dispute Between Two Attorneys for the Same Will Contest Plaintiff Is Properly Within the Jurisdiction of the Probate Court Because the Fees Arise from the Will Contest Proceeding

Osterman v. Caltrider, 5th Dist. App. No. 12 CA 28, 2013 Ohio 1758. A will contest plaintiff was represented on an hourly rate by a predecessor attorney, who was subsequently terminated and replaced by current counsel. The plaintiffs current counsel settled the will contest through an Agreed Judgment Entry. Subsequently, plaintiff filed a separate case in the probate court requesting that the court reduce the attorney fees to the predecessor attorney and that the fees be paid out of the plaintiff's trust. The predecessor attorney filed a motion to set aside the settlement agreement in order to protect its interests. The will contest defendants filed a motion to dismiss the new case and all motions involving fees and trusts because it was actually a private party fee dispute involving the party's two attorneys and the probate court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear them. The probate court granted the defendants motion and dismissed the claim and denied the predecessor attorney's motion to set aside the settlement agreement reached in the underlying probate case. On appeal, the court found that the question before them did not involve a fee sharing agreement between two counsels, but instead was a dispute about the payment of reasonable attorney fees related to the underlying will contest proceeding. The trial court's decision was reversed because the probate court does have jurisdiction to hear questions related to the attorney fees for services provided in the will contest.