Attorney Fees in Will Contests

The general rule is that a party is responsible for his/her own attorney fees in litigation, regardless of the outcome. The usual exception to this rule is if there is an applicable statute or contract which calls for an award of attorney fees. “Whether a trial court had authority to award attorney fees is a question of law that we review de novo.” Yes Chancellor Farms, LLC v. Merkel, 670 S.W.3d 214, 226 (Mo. Ct. App. 2023).

A court in a probate matter has the equitable authority to award attorney fees. In re Estate of Murray, 682 S.W.2d 857, 858 (Mo. Ct. App. 1984). In will contest cases, however, an estate and personal representative — even when successfully defending a contest — cannot recover attorney fees. In re Soulard’s Estate, 43 S.W. 617, 624 (Mo. 1897). The same, likewise, applies for a successful contestant of a will. In re Ballard’s Estate, 247 S.W.2d 683, 685 (Mo. 1952).

Scroll to Top