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.
A lot of probate lawyers charge by the hour, in which differs by location in addition to how skilled and/or knowledgeable the lawyer is (the more skilled and/or knowledgeable, the more increase in rate).
Some probate lawyers charge a flat fee, in which is exactly what it sounds like: they quote their fee for managing the case.
Other probate lawyers require a percentage, in which is usually based on the gross (not net) worth of the estate. Some states, like California, govern probate lawyers’ fees through law, prohibiting these lawyers from billing more than a specific percentage of the worth of the gross estate. The fees might seem reasonless to many clients (particularly those with large valued estates) since the percentage comes from the gross worth of the estate and not what it’s valued minus liabilities like mortgages on properties.
Despite the type of fee structure, clients need to request the fee agreement in writing to be positively sure of the payment arrangement and services included.
How Long Does Probate Going to Take?
Probating a will might take anywhere from a couple of months to up to more than a year, although many estates are concluded inside of a year. How long the process is going to take can be impacted by many factors including if the will was direct and uncontested and also by how well organized the decedent was, for instance if the estate was “in order” with a will and other vital legal documentation like deeds and titles at the time of their passing.
The value of the estate is an additional factor that can impact how long it is going to take. The more assets and/or liabilities an estate has, the longer the probate process is probably going to be. Furthermore, when an estate has a high enough value to be subjected to being taxed, that can also draw out the process as then the IRS also gets involved.
Nevertheless, an estate with somewhat little assets and/or lesser valued could benefit by the easy 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?
Yes, through astute estate planning, probate can be avoided, and, consequently, probate costs. Common estate planning techniques for avoiding probate include the below:
- Joint ownership of property, since property transfers directly to the other owner devoid of going through probate;
- Appointing of intended beneficiaries promptly on accounts like life insurance, retirement, financial institution POD and investment TOD), since, once more, the account transfers directly outside of probate;
- Creation of a living trust, since property held in the trust gets allocated to the intended beneficiary devoid of going through probate.
Don’t forget that hiring a probate lawyer is not a requirement throughout the process, however, if you are an executor or administrator of an estate, you might want to consult with a lawyer for guidance.
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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