Sat, Feb. 02, 2008

German Statutory Legal Fees

CK - Washington.   German statutory fees for attorneys and notaries often befuddle foreigners. The statutory legal fees are tied to values, in litigation, for instance, to the sum in dispute between the parties. They are computed according to progressive schedules.

As a result, a matter with insignificant financial value and lots of work may appear surprisingly inexpensive while a matter requiring little work but involving a very valuable claim can seem excessively costly. A recent discussion in a mailing list of German attorneys illustrates the point.

There, the assignment involved a notary's services for the application for, and issuance of, letters of administration, Testamentsvollstreckerzeugnis. With assets held in a bank safe, the value of the estate is deemed to be 3,000 Euros and results in fees of less than 100 Euros. When the executor received the letters of administration and accessed the safe, clumps of gold appeared, a notary writes.

At that point, the actual value of the matter is known, and the notary has to recompute the fee and reissue the invoice to reflect the true statutory value. By contrast, an American attorney's fee could be in the thousands for the initial work, especially when it involves complex international inheritance issues, and may experience no adjustment after the true value is discovered.

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