How much is it going to cost to hire a lawyer to manage your probate case? The answer differs greatly, but it will most likely be subject to more on the location you are filing the probate case compared to how complex the legal work is.
Kinds of Fee Arrangements
Lawyers generally use one of 3 approaches to bill for probate work: a percentage of the worth of the estate assets, by the hour, or a typical flat fee. Your lawyer might let you choose how you pay—for instance, $250 an hour or a $1,500 flat fee for managing a standard probate case.
Billing by the Hour
A lot of probate lawyers bill their clients by the hour. The hourly rate is subject on how much knowledge and training the lawyer has, your location, and if the lawyer practices in a large firm or a small law firm. Small town rates can be as low as $150 an hour; in cities, a rate of less than $200 hour would be uncommon. Large law firms typically charge higher rates than individual practitioners or smaller law firms, unless a small firm is comprised solely of bold professionals.
A lawyer that only does estate planning and probate cases will probably charge a higher hourly rate than a conventional practitioner. The advantage to you is that a professional should be more proficient. A lawyer that has navigated many probates through local courts has most likely learned all the local regulations and how to prepare, then file the documents the way the court appreciates them.
When your attorney employs less experienced associates and paralegals, their time should be charged at a decreased hourly rate. This is quite common in firms that perform probate work; paralegals usually draw up the standard paperwork.
Many lawyers bill in a minimum of increments of 6 minutes (1/10 of an hour). So, if your lawyer (or their paralegal) spends 2 minutes on the phone on the estate’s behalf, you’ll get billed for 6 minutes.
It’s also not uncommon for lawyers to bill their probate clientele a flat fee. This way, they don’t have to keep minute by minute records of how their time is spent. (Lawyers dislike keeping a record of the “billable hours” any more than their clients like paying for 6-minute intervals.) And since they have an understanding of how long the average probate takes, they can charge you a fee that is going to be close to what they would receive if they charged by the hour.
When you are billed this way, there is no concern on your part about getting billed every time you want to ask a question. It may be a more laid-back experience.
If you are in agreement to pay the flat fee for legal work, be sure you understand what it covers and doesn’t cover. For instance, you might have to still pay separate court filing fees, costs to record documentation, or appraisal fees.
Percentage of the Estate’s Worth
The most catastrophic way to pay a probate lawyer—from the perspective of the estate—is paying a percentage of the worth of the estate used as the fee. This is normal in only a couple of states. And in those states, lawyers aren’t necessitated by law to receive a percentage fee. You should try to bargain a flat fee or an hourly rate with the lawyer. But a lot of lawyers have a preference for the ”statutory fee” since it’s typically very high in relation to the amount of work they’re required to do.
State law enables lawyers to charge a fixed percentage fee in:
These fees are usually high under the conditions since they are measured based on the gross value of the probate assets, not it’s net value. For instance, if you’re managing an estate that comprises of a house worth $400,000, with $175,000 left on the mortgage, the lawyer’s fee is going to be based on $400,000—not the $250,000 of equity the estate really owns. And the probate documents for a transferring a $1 million house is essentially as it is for transferring a $150,000 house—so why are the fees so different?
You can get a feel of how high these fees are by examining California’s legal fee schedule. For “typical” services, lawyers may receive:
- Four percent of the first $100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
- Three percent of the following $100,000
- Two percent of the following $800,000
- One percent of the following $9 million
- Half percent of the following $15 million
- “a reasonable number” of anything higher than $25 million
Utilizing this system, probating a normal California estate with a gross worth of $500,000 would cost $13,000 in legal costs—a very big number considering how much legal work that has to be done. The estate would fare a lot better if it instead, the lawyer was paid by the hour.
Make Your Fee Agreement in Writing
It doesn’t matter what type of fee agreement you have, get the conditions in writing. A lot of states necessitate specific lawyer – client fee agreements to be in writing; if that’s correct where you reside, it’s just wise. As with a lot of agreements, the most valuable portion isn’t having all the conditions on paper—it’s the conversations that results in writing them down.
The Agreement Needs To Cover:
- a flat, or hourly fee of the lawyer and paralegal that could work on the estate
- the lawyer that is going to be your primary contact at the law firm
- an approximation of the total cost or the entire number of hours
- expenses you pay independently, like court fees, postage, and publishing of legal notices
- the way the lawyer’s work will be detailed on the bills (the work done per increment of time should be detailed, so you don’t just get billed for “legal services,” “examination” or “trial prep”)
- how frequently the firm is going bill you, and
- the time your payments are going to be due.
Mary Randolph, J. (2014, February 03). Probate Lawyers’ Fees and Billing. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/probate-lawyers-fees-billing.html
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