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Probate Lawyer Fees

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Whereas not every estate requires a probate lawyer, having a knowledgeable one as an supporter can be a big help to an administrator or executor– but how much is it going to cost and who is going to pay?

A more general question individuals have concerning probate is about probate lawyer fees and how much probate is most likely going to cost. Because the answer is subject to a plethora of factors, it’s vital to understand some basics concerning the process to better anticipate probate cost.

In the following is a small guide on probate laws and probate lawyers, including explanations of the way the probate process works, how long it is going take, possible costs, and the way probate can be avoided entirely.

What is the Meaning of Probate?

Probate is the court-controlled process of administering the estate of a decedent, which includes paying off liabilities and allocating property to heirs. The estate is managed by either an executor appointed in the decedent’s will or, when there wasn’t a will, by an administrator named by the probate court. This individual is often simply referred to as a “personal representative.”

The primary steps of probate involve the below:

(1) Filing a request for opening the estate and scheduling a hearing to name a personal representative;

(2) Giving notification of the hearing to beneficiaries and heirs;

(3) Administering an inventory of the estate (compiled of all assets and liabilities);

(4) Giving notification to all estate creditors;

(5) Paying-out liabilities and allocating estate property to beneficiaries;

(6) Finalizing the estate.

What Is A Probate Lawyer?

A probate lawyer is a certified lawyer that specializes in matters pertaining to probate. Probate lawyer fees, also known as estate lawyer fees, are funds paid directly to the lawyers for their legal services; these are different from  “probate costs” in general, in which can also comprise of the following:

  • Fees for a personal representative
  • Fees for court
  • Fees for publication of notice
  • Fees for accounting
  • Fees for appraisals
  • Fees for recording deeds

Probate lawyer’s fees are paid-out by the estate, and not by the administrator or executor.

They often charge hourly rates, varying by location and the lawyer’s expertise—higher rates for more skilled/knowledgeable lawyers.

Some lawyers charge a flat fee, providing a quoted cost for case management. Others opt for a percentage, often based on the gross estate worth. In some states, like California, laws regulate fees, capping them at a specific percentage of the gross estate. This percentage, coming from the gross worth and not deducting liabilities, may seem unreasonable, especially for high-value estates.

Regardless of the fee structure, clients should request a written fee agreement for clarity on payment and included services.

How Long Does Probate Going to Take?

Probating a will can take anywhere from a few months to over a year, with many estates concluding within a year. The duration depends on factors such as the will’s clarity, lack of contestation, and the decedent’s organization. A well-organized estate with a clear will and essential documents tends to expedite the process.

The estate’s value is another influencing factor; more assets or liabilities often result in a lengthier probate. Additionally, if the estate’s value triggers taxation, involving the IRS can further extend the process.

However, estates with fewer assets or lower value may benefit from simplified probate processes available in many states.

How Much is Probate Going to Cost?

Probate costs differ greatly from one locality to another, but they generally tally up to be somewhere around of three to seven percent of the estate’s value. However, they can go a lot higher, and usually do so as the value of an estate increases. Clearly, the greater the value of an estate, the greater the probate costs are probably going to be.

Can Probate be Avoided?

Through astute estate planning, you can avoid probate and the associated costs. Common techniques include:

  1. Joint Ownership: Property transfers directly to the other owner, bypassing probate.
  2. Prompt Beneficiary Appointment: Designate beneficiaries on accounts like life insurance and retirement for a direct transfer outside of probate.
  3. Creation of a Living Trust: Property held in the trust is allocated to the intended beneficiary without going through probate.

While hiring a probate lawyer is not obligatory, consulting with one can offer valuable guidance, especially if you’re an executor or administrator.

Source:

  1. Michelle Kaminsky, E. (2022, May 26). Understanding probate lawyer fees. LegalZoom. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/understanding-probate-lawyer-fees
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