Lawyer takes $33M in legal fees, children left with $500,000 each

December 13, 2009 | By | Filed Under News 

Despite a final court judgment on the estate of dead Guyanese businessman, Victor Bourne, there is still some amount of controversy over how part of it was disbursed.

Some of the dead man’s children are crying foul over the initial payment they have received.

They believe that the attorney who represented them has not been considerate when he claimed a significant portion of money from an escrow account as legal fees.

Victor Melville Bourne, a Guyanese businessman was engaged in a legal battle with his wife, Yvette Erla Leacock, over his estate which is worth a whopping $600M. Bourne subsequently died leaving his estate to his 10 children, two of whom were born to Leacock.

The children appointed their uncle, Norman Bourne, as administrator of the estate to continue the legal proceedings on their behalf.

After 13 years of legal wrangling the court eventually ruled that Leacock was entitled to one-half of the estate while the children were entitled to the other half.

Norman Bourne had secured the services of attorney at law Gentle Elias to pursue the matter in court and had signed a retainer agreement, with respect to the attorney’s fees.

No money was paid to the lawyer in the initial stages of the matter and the agreement was that he will be paid upon its completion. Most of the estate consists of properties totaling hundreds of millions of dollars in value. However, the estate also consisted of an escrow account worth $80M.

Half of that money was given to the wife, Yvette Earla Leacock and the other $40M was to be divided equally between the 10 children of Victor Bourne.

This is where the controversy began, since the lawyer was now entitled to receive payment for the work he did over the years.

As it turned out, the sum of $2M was repayment and interests for a loan that was used for the purpose of paying estate duty on behalf of the estate.

The lawyer took $33.5 million in lieu of the total legal fees, leaving a mere $5M for the children with each given a measly $500,000.

This has certainly angered some of the children, especially Leacock’s two, who claimed that they had not permitted their uncle Norman Bourne to act on their behalf.

They are claiming that they should have been given their equal share of the $40M and the legal fees taken from the remainder, since the lawyer was really not representing them.

When contacted, Elias pointed out that the court had ruled that Norman Bourne was acting on behalf of all of his brother’s children and not just eight of them.

He said that he merely received part payment of what was agreed when he took the matter. “Initially I was representing a $600M dollar estate,” the attorney said.

The agreement which was signed by the estate’s administrator, Norman Bourne, stated that in consideration of the services provided, Bourne shall pay the lawyer 10 percent of the value of assets awarded to the children in relation to all properties, in the event that an amicable settlement is agreed upon between the children and the wife.

It further went on to state that in the event the matter goes to trial, a commission of 33 percent of the assets awarded should be paid in legal fees.

“If I did not win anything for the children I would not be entitled to any payment,” Elias told this newspaper.

But there is the feeling among some of the children that the attorney was unreasonable in claiming so much money from the escrow account and leaving them with very little.

They believe that he could have considered the fact that the properties are fixed assets and will take some time before they could be reasonably divided with the wife before making a livable demand for his fees.

They also believe that their uncle, Norman Bourne, had not acted in their best interest.

The attorney has already written to one of the children to secure an early settlement of the balance of payment due to him.

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