The Florida Supreme Court has ordered that Milton attorney Jennifer Byrom be publicly reprimanded after it found the attorney charged excessive fees for a 10-year-long probate case.
The matter began in 1998 when Byrom’s future client, a widow, consulted her on her husband’s estate, requesting assistance with handling the $1.5 million estate. In July 1998, Byrom took guardianship, but she did not extend guardianship to the widow in petitions filed with the courts.
It was at this time when the attorney began to charge exorbitant hourly rates. According to court documents, Byrom charged between $60 and $85 per hour for any work performed by her staff and between $180 and $250 per hour for work she completed done. She charged the widow for both guardianship and legal services, even though she was only entitled to charge for performing the latter. Additionally, Byrom charged incidentals to the account such as her food and travel expenses. All of her expenses were approved by the courts.
After 10 1/2 years of service, the widow’s daughter filed for and was granted guardianship, but Byrom had already racked up charges totaling $400,000 during her time as guardian.
After reviewing the facts of the case, including the court approvals and signatures from the widow and her children approving the activities charged, the Supreme Court determined that discipline was warranted. Byrom will to be publicly reprimanded in the Referee and will be required to take 15 hours of continuing legal education in guardianship and 15 hours in guardianship, probate and/or estate planning.
The family law attorney was admitted to the Florida State Bar in 1985 and is a graduate of the Samford University Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. She had no prior record of discipline in the state.