Master LeGrow Reduces Fee Reimbursement to be Allowed to Petitioners After Their Unsuccessful Challenge to Validity of Decedent’s Last Will and Testament

Delaware Fiduciary Litigation Blog

Posted November 2, 2015

IMO the Last Will & Testament of Wilma B. Kittila, deceased C.A. No. 2084-ML (October 9, 2015)

In this opinion, Master LeGrow only partially approved the amounts sought in the non-prevailing party’s fee petition. Writing about this same case in earlier blog posts, we addressed: (1) the judgment against the Petitioners regarding Wilma B. Kittila’s last will and testament (see and (2) the Master’s general decision to grant the Petitioners’ motion for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs, without yet approving any specific amount (see’-motion-award-attorneys’-fees-and-costs-following-rejection).

Due to the inability of the parties to successfully negotiate the amount of fees to be paid by the estate to the Petitioners for their unsuccessful challenge to the validity of Wilma’s last will and testament, the Petitioners filed a fee petition and accompanying affidavit of fees. Represented within the affidavit is a total amount of $224,565.46 in attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the Petitioners’ from their challenge to the validity of Wilma’s 2009 Will and 2004 Will (excluding fees incurred before the Petitioners’ hired their current counsel). In its supplemental brief to the Court, the estate opposed the Petitioners’ request to be compensated the total amount and argued the requested amount is disproportionate to the total value of the estate ($351,330.27 after deducting the estate’s attorneys’ fees and costs incurred defending the Petitioners’ challenges).

Upon recognizing an award of the amount requested by the Petitioners would reduce Wilma’s estate “to approximately half its original size, thereby defeating the testator’s intent,” and that the additional deduction of the estate’s attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in defending the action “would leave approximately one quarter of the estate for Wilma’s designated beneficiaries,” the Master recommended that the court “order the estate to pay Petitioners’ attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $88,032.65” (20 percent of the value of Wilma’s estate at the time of Wilma’s death). The Master reasoned that the recommended amount “fairly balances the competing interests at stake” previously identified in this case by the Master, specifically "the probable cause and exceptional circumstances necessary for the Court to award attorneys’ fees to an unsuccessful will contestant, and the importance of ensuring that an award of attorneys’ fees does not eviscerate the testator’s intent.”


William M. Kelleher, Director
Gordon, Fournaris & Mammarella, P.A.
Henry Meldrum – Law Clerk