Alex Wolf




Recovery of Nationalized and Expropriated Property in Poland

Contact:  Alex Wolf                e-mail:                Telephone:  302-351-6200

City buildings in Katowice
Katowice - Sokolska, by Kris Duda
via Flickr click to view license

Pozan street scene by Christofer John SSF.
Poznan street scene by Christofer John SSF (Flickr) click to view license

Poznan Centrum.
Poznan Centrum, via Wikimedia Commons this work is in the public domain

Kanonicza Street, Kraków (view from Wawel)
Kanonicza Street, Kraków (view from Wawel)
By Taxiarchos228 (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons click to view license


Q. Do we offer a free initial consultation?
A. Yes, we do. We offer a free in-depth consultation. This includes a review of client’s verbal information and documents. This enables us to make a preliminary evaluation of client’s case and of the workload involved up to recovery.

Our fee arrangements always include a component of contingent fees, while recovery projects take several years. Therefore, a favorable outcome of the initial review is a precondition for us to accept the client.

Q. Is the clients’ information protected?
A. With us it is. At the outset, before our review of client’s information and documents, we sign, for the client’s benefit, our Confirmation of Confidentiality. This document identifies the name and address of the client to whom we assume the obligation of confidentiality, identifies relatives from whom the client inherits properties in Poland and, to the extent possible, identifies these properties. After we sign this document, we expect the client to provide all relevant information for our no-charge review (more fully described on the Home page).

Q. When do we start charging for our services?
A. We do business only via written agreements. Charges start only after we have a written agreement (”Agreement”) with the client.

Q. Who performs our work for clients?
A. With us, from the initial free review to the very end (monetization) the high bulk of work is done by seasoned professionals. We do not delegate much work to juniors. This sets us apart from competition, particularly large law firms in Poland, which delegate most of the work on recovery and succession related work to juniors.

Q. Are the services all inclusive?
A. With us they are. They go from research to evaluation, through all required legal proceedings, right to transparent monetization of client’s claims. See details below.

Q. Are contingent fees available?
A. With us they are. We always have skin in the game. We offer different fee arrangements, but in all of them a significant part of our fees is contingent on ultimate results — monetization of clients claims.

Q. Are expenses included in our fees?
A. No. We charge expenses separately, at actual documented cost

Q. What constitutes billable expenses?
A. With us, billable expenses are only out–of-pocket payments to third parties, which we incur for the direct benefit of clients. Billable expenses include document authentication charges, translation fees, travel within Poland, land surveyor fees and maps, etc., Civil Notary's fees, court costs, other government-imposed charges and expert reports, if any.

Q. What fee arrangements are available?
A. Assuming our initial free review is favorable, we offer flexible fee arrangements, always milestone related and subject to a cap (maximum amount) on non-contingent fees, namely:

  1. Hourly Fees (non-contingent) subject to a cap, plus a success fee — a small contingent fee, payable on monetization at the end of Phase 2, at 6% to 8% of the amounts collected by the client.
  2. Primarily Contingent Fees, payable on monetization at the very end of the project plus fixed milestone related amounts for non-contingent fees (also capped).
    Under this arrangement, from the monetization of each property we typically receive 30% of the first $500,000 collected by client, 27.5% of the second $500,000, and 25% of additional amounts — BUT all these amounts are reduced by one-half of the total amount we receive as non-contingent fees. When the property is worth several million dollars, we charge lower contingent fees, in some instances down to 20%.
  3. Arrangements between (A) and (B) above are possible, i.e. based on different trade-offs between contingent and non-contingent fees.

Q. Do we accept all clients?
A. No, we cannot. We cannot accept clients for whom, upon the initial free review, we do not see a priori reasonable prospects for recovery of sizeable assets. Secondly, if the supported written opinion of our specialized attorneys (generated during Phase 1) does not confirm good prospects for recovery, the engagement is terminated.

Also, we do not accept clients who are not motivated (such as clients who do not provide information in a timely manner). Such weaknesses usually come out during the initial review.

Q. What are our hourly fee rates?
A. We provide our hourly rates on request. Hourly fees apply only under the arrangement explicitly based on them. Professional fees in Poland are no longer low and are rising, but are still a small fraction of fees billed in major American cities.

Q. Are non-contingent fees capped in our projects?
A. With us they are. Under all our fee arrangements, the Agreement sets the maximum (and minimum) limits for total non-contingent fees payable for the job (the mandate) we undertake. These limits depend on the workload involved and the complexity of the case.

Q. What are typical caps on non-contingent fees in our projects?
A. The circumstances vary greatly between cases. In particular, the effort required to succeed in Phase 2, which culminates in recovery and monetization, depends on a number of factors and their complexity(12).

For general orientation purposes, the caps (upper limits) on total non-contingent fees range from $70,000 to $180,000 — to be paid in many milestone-related installments over several years. The corresponding minimum total non-contingent fees typically range from $40,000 to $130,000.

These figures should be viewed in relation to typical recoveries of several million dollars.

Q. Do these figures cover both Phase 1 and Phase 2 work of the mandate?
A. Yes, they do. The bulk of the payments are in Phase 2, that is in the event of a favorable legal and economic analysis based on documents that need to be gathered.

Q. Are there exceptions to the general orientation figures we mentioned above?
A. Total non-contingent fees may be higher in cases that involve a large number of heirs, who are not related to each other in a direct line, and who are not siblings, and in cases that involve recovery of numerous properties that expropriated separately, especially in different localities.

Q. Are there any other general conditions concerning payments?
A. Yes, there are. Our Agreements are transparent. They explicate all conditions, fees and expenses. There are no surprises.

Q. Are the payments made to recover inherited assets tax deductible in Poland?
Are they tax deductible in countries where foreign claimants live?

A. For discussion of these and related tax issues see the Tax Issues page.

Q. How do the “milestone related” payments work?
A. By definition, milestone related payments provide our clients with control over the entire progress of the mandate. This applies to all our fee arrangements.

Early on in the execution of a mandate, a client makes progress payments as in-trust deposits towards the non-contingent fees that we earn, and expenses we incur, by performing work to achieve milestones specified in the Agreement. These progress payments are tied to a schedule-of-values (“SOV”) similar to such schedules used in construction contracts to manage progress.

Just as in construction contracts, much of our work under a mandate cannot be done until certain prior tasks are accomplished. For instance, we cannot file succession proceedings until we have secured the required documents. Likewise, we cannot finalize recovery proceedings until we have completed succession proceedings, and so on. For a typical comprehensive schedule-of-values applicable to our mandates see the
Schedule-of-Values (”SOV”) page.

Under the Hourly Fees arrangement, in the early part of the mandate the SOV provides estimated non-contingent fees and related expenses for each major task. We receive these amounts in advance, in-trust. We are accountable for them. If on a particular task the hourly fees we earn, or expenses we incur, exceed the related deposit, then upon our documented request, the client remits the difference. If the deposit exceeds actual hourly fees earned or expenses incurred, we credit the difference to the client’s account, to be used towards subsequent tasks.

As the execution of the mandate progresses, fee payments cease to be made in advance. They turn into payments upon reaching milestones. These are by far the largest fee payments — under all fee arrangements.

Under the Primarily Contingent Fees arrangement (instead of providing estimates of non-contingent fees) for each major task, the SOV provides fixed amounts of non-contingent fees for accomplishing that task. Under this arrangement, only advances made towards expenses are subject to adjustments.

Q. What are the largest fee payments?
A. They largest fee payments are:

  1. Non-contingent fees paid upon documented proof that we filed proceedings (proceedings to declare persons as deceased, succession proceedings, recovery proceedings and special proceedings, if any);
  2. Non-contingent fees paid upon documented proof that we obtained the desired judgments in those proceedings;
  3. Contingent fees paid upon monetization.

Q. Does our Agreement define what constitutes proof that we filed specific proceedings, and that we obtained the desired judgments?
A. Yes, it clearly defines all of these proofs, namely:

  • Certified copy of relevant pleadings, sworn English translation of same and copies of documents filed with such pleadings — serves as proof that we filed relevant proceedings;
  • Certified copy of relevant judgment and sworn English translation of same — serves as proof that we obtained the desired judgment.
Q. Do foreign clients really control the monetization of their Polish recovered properties?
A. With us they certainly do. This transparency sets us apart from other providers of property recovery services in Poland.

By Agreement, we ask clients to authorize specific monetizing transaction only after we inform them of the market values and alternative transactions.

Also by Agreement, the monetization of any part of a client's assets requires their explicit written authorizations, with their signatures attested by a notary. Such authorizations include full description of assets to be alienated, the sale price or Indemnification to be received for them and terms of payment — usually full payment at the time of closing the transaction.

Q. How does our Agreement define monetization?
A. Under the Agreement, the following elements (A and B) jointly serve as proof that we successfully monetized for a client any part of his assets in Poland. This proof entitles us to our contingent fees:

  1. In case of a sale of Shares in a property, the signing of the purchase–sale contract, in the form of notarial deed, by the buyer or buyers, by persons designated in writing by the client, and by a Civil Notary in Poland(13); in case of accepting Indemnification, the signing of analogous notarial deed;
  2. Payment of agreed amounts into the bank accounts, indicated in advance in writing by the client. 

Q. Are clients’ ownership titles alienated before clients receive monetization amounts?
A. Not when we are involved. With us, Clients’ ownership titles are alienated only after they receive the monetization amounts they pre-authorized in writing.

Q. Can we illustrate a comprehensive Schedule-of-Values?
A. Certainly. See Schedule-of-Values (”SOV”) for a typical comprehensive SOV applicable to our mandates. To repeat, progress payments are tied to an SOV.

Q. Do we keep the client informed about the progress of the mandate?
A. We do indeed, in detail. See Reporting to Clients


(12): The scope of Phase 2 work depends directly on information and documents gathered in Phase 1. Phase 2 culminates in a supported estimate of recoverable value of relevant properties and a legal opinion concerning prospects for their recovery.

The aggregate of non-contingent fees, which is capped in a given mandate, depends on a number of factors, including these: a) the number and complexity of required legal proceedings, b) defenses to recovery efforts we encounter, c) whether successions claimed are in direct line or in lateral line, d) the number of heirs and their family relationships with the former property owner, e) the number of countries in which the family documents were issued, f) whether formal or informal changes in spelling of names in Poland or abroad need be explained, g) whether last wills govern any steps of succession outside Poland, h) the complexity of those wills, i) the number of expropriation proceedings to be challenged, j) the number of locations in Poland where (by law) various proceedings must be conducted, k) the complexity of geodesic map changes, l) the complexity of ownership transformations, m) whether lost income needs be evaluated, etc.

(13): In Poland, as in other European countries (also in the U.S. in Louisiana, and in Canada in Quebec), a Notary is a civil law notary with broad powers, usually reserved for lawyers in other U.S. States, including the drafting and recording of real estate transactions. A civil law Notary also has the powers held by of notary public in common law jurisdictions.

Warsaw street scene By Russell Yarwood (Flickr) click to view license

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