How Probate Attorneys Charge For Their Services
In many states, probate fees are set by statuteoften as a percentage of the value of the estate.
For instance, in California an attorney can collect a percentage of the value of the estate.
For the first $100,000 of value, the attorney can collect 4% .
For the next $100,000 of value, the attorney can collect 3%.
For the next $800,000, they can collect 2%. The percentage decreases from there.
See: What assets go through probate?
Even in states where attorney compensation is set by statute, a probate attorney can request more if they do something considered extraordinary, such as helping with the sale of a business. This additional fee must be approved by the probate court as reasonable based on the work provided.
Some states leave it to attorneys to set their own fees, with an assumption that competition will effectively regulate the cost. For instance, in New York, probate attorneys can charge a flat fee to take on a probate case, charge by the hour, or charge a percentage of the estate.
Some attorneys may charge separate flat fees for different parts of the probate processsuch as one fee to obtain the letters testamentary or letters of administration and another to settle the estate.
Most attorneys will require a retainer to begin the work and charge the remaining balance once the estate assets are available. The retainer typically ranges from $1,500-$3,500, often limiting access to a low cost probate lawyer.
What Are The Costs Of Probate
The costs of Probate are also pretty straightforward. Filing fees range from $45.00 for small estates up to a maximum of $1,250.00 for large estates. Executors commissions are typically in the 4% to 5% range . Legal fees are always subject to Court approval and are typically in the same range as an Executors commission.
How To Avoid Probate
Avoiding the costs and long delays of the probate process is simpler than most people think. Below are some simple tips to help you keep more of your estate in the hands of your loved ones.
1. Set up a Living Trust
The simplest and most straightforward way to bypass the probate process is by creating a living trust. Unlike a will which only distributes your assets upon death, a living trust transfers ownership of the assets from the original owner to the trust itself which is managed by a trustee for the direct benefit of your beneficiaries. It allows you to avoid the entire process of probate since the assets placed into the trust are no longer under your possession.
2. Add A Payable-on-Death Beneficiary
Another way to avoid probate is to simply add a payable-on-death beneficiary to any or all of your financial accounts including but not limited to life insurance policies, 401k plans, pension plans, stocks, bonds and IRA accounts. To get started, simply request and fill out the payable on death that your bank or brokerage company provides. If youre married, its important to remember that some of these accounts may be partially owned by your spouse. By filling out these forms, you ensure that your assets are immediately transferred upon death and thus, avoid the expensive and time consuming cost of probate.
3. Hold Any Property You Own Jointly with A Spouse or Significant Other
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Get Your Fee Agreement In Writing
No matter what kind of fee arrangement you have, get the terms in writing. Some states require certain lawyer-client fee agreements to be in writing whether or not that’s true where you live, it’s a good idea. As with most agreements, the most valuable part is not having all the terms on paperit’s the discussion that leads to writing them down.
The agreement should cover:
- the flat fee, or the hourly fee of each lawyer and legal assistant who may work on the estate
- which lawyer will be your main contact at the firm
- an estimate of the total cost or the total number of hours
- expenses you pay separately, such as court fees, postage, and publication of legal notices
- how the lawyer’s work will be described on the bills
- how often the firm will bill you, and
- when your payments will be due.
New York Probate Faqs
You are not required to have an attorney, estate proceedings can range from the relatively simple to the extremely complex. In many cases it may be impossible at the beginning of the process to foresee what questions or issues may arise. Therefore, it may be advisable to seek the assistance of legal counsel. If you are going to proceed without a lawyer, start by calling the appropriate Surrogates Court for information regarding the necessary forms. While court staff may provide legal information, they are prohibited by law from giving legal advice.
When a person dies with real property or personal property titled in their own name.
In the county where the decedent was domiciled.
If there is a Will, the person named as the Executor, or, if they are unable to act, the person named as the Successor Executor. If there is no Will, any person interested in the estate under the laws of intestacy , or a public administrator or a creditor.
If a lawyer prepared your Will for you, you may wish to discuss with him or her where to keep the original Will. Generally, the original Will should be kept in a safe place which will be easily accessible if it is needed. For a small or no fee, the Surrogates Court stores the Will for safekeeping. Each Will is kept confidential until the Court receives proof of death. Upon receipt of the proof of death, the Court will open the Will and it becomes a public document.
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How Can I Save Money Using A Probate Lawyer
Because ordinary probate lawyer fees are predetermined by statute, the best way to reduce costs is by saving time, i.e., making the probate process proceed more quickly. Choosing an experienced probate lawyer, experienced with the probate processes in the decedents local county probate court is a good place to start.
How To Avoid Probate In New York
You might be able to avoid probate in New York through any of the following strategies:
Establish a Revocable Living Trust
Title property strategically:
Community Property With Right of Survivorship
Update your beneficiaries and be sure to designate contingent options
Create assets that will TOD or POD
Also, estates with a value below the small estate threshold can often avoid probate, or at least go through a minimal version of it.
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How Much Does A Letter Of Testamentary Cost
Short answer: $3,000 to $10,000, typically around $4,000.
Expect to pay a minimum fee of $3,000 for a lawyer to help you obtain your letters testamentary. This includes the minimum amount of work needed to gather your information, prepare the court documents, and communicate back and forth with you and the court clerks. However, this base fee will increase if your case runs into any number of complications.
How Do Probate Costs Vary Between States
Some states have laws limiting executor and probate attorney fees, and many states have simplified court proceedings for small or simple estates that make the probate process more efficient and inexpensive.
The Uniform Probate Code is a model code regulating the probate process. The UPC has been adopted, with minor variations, by the following states:
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What Are Typical Attorney Fees
Throughout the United States, typical attorney fees usually range from about $100 an hour to $400 an hour. These hourly rates will increase with experience and practice area specialization.
Attorneys may consider different factors when setting their fee rate and payment structure, like their experience, how many court appearances a case will require, and the rates of other similar attorneys in the area.
Are There Limitations To Executor Fees And Probate Attorney Fees
If there is no will or if the will doesnt mention anything about payment, state law will determine the fee that an executor is entitled to receive.
Some states calculate the cost by multiplying the gross value of the estate by a specific percent, which varies based on the amount of the estate. The percentage of the fee goes down as the value of the estate goes up, so that the executor fee is not enormous.
Other times, the fee is calculated as a percentage of the transactions that the executor handled. In yet other states, the amount of the fee is left to the discretion of the probate court. The judge decides what is a reasonable fee.
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What Kind Of Lawyer Does Wills
No one likes talking about death, but its better than leaving your children or siblings to sort out your estate. A clearly planned will can make the time of mourning easier for everyone. An estate attorney will develop a legal will, create trusts on your behalf, and ensure the proper execution of your estate after you pass away.
Family attorneys and estate attorneys, also called probate and wills attorneys, can each prepare wills. The type of lawyer best suited to prepare your will depends on your situation. Most family attorneys provide services to prepare basic wills, including bequeathing property and personal items to family or naming a guardian for minor children. However, estate attorneys specialize in preparing wills in more complex situations. Consider hiring an estate attorney if you:
- Have a large number of assets, especially those subject to estate taxes
- Want to create a trust, such as allowing a spouse to live in your home until he or she dies and then leaving it to your children, or set up long-term care for a beneficiary
- Have an ownership stake in a business
- Expect someone to contest your will
- Want to disinherit your spouse
What Increases The Cost Of A Probate Attorney
Regardless of the method an attorney uses to charge clients, their fees will increase if there are complications with probate.
Some examples of issues that will increase the cost of retaining a probate attorney include:
- Problems with the will, such as provisions that go against state law
- Will contests from heirs or other interested parties
- Errors on the death certificate
- Significant numbers of parties to provide notice to, like dozens of potential heirs
- Additional court appearances, often because of will challenges or other abnormalities
- Significant time and attention requested by the client
Probate attorneys flat fee agreements generally include language that allows for additional fees if problematic issues arisemaking it difficult to know exactly how much a probate lawyer will cost you.
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Probate Lawyer Fees In New York
How much are New York probate lawyer fees?
- For most cases, estate attorneys in New York charge by the hour, ranging from $350 to $600 per hour.
- For a few types of smaller cases, estate attorneys can charge a flat fee starting at about $3,000.
- For cases that have a potentially promising outcome but risk not having a recovery at all, estate attorneys can charge on a contingency basis based on the value of the estate recovery. The rate is usually 33%.
If you would like to discuss probate lawyer fees in your specific case, you can send us an email at .
Are you looking for something like a New York probate attorney fee schedule? Are you wondering how much does a letter of testamentary cost? We will explain how New York probate lawyer fees are calculated and what factors are involved in setting the fees. This information is based on our own experience and on asking other estate lawyers in the New York City area.
New York Executor Fees
Part of the process of making a will is appointing a person or entity to be responsible for managing your estate once you pass away. That person is referred to as the executor of your estate. If you do not leave a will, then the New York Surrogates Court will appoint an estate administrator to fill the executors role. Upon your death, your estate must go through an administration process that begins with your will being submitted to the court. The Surrogate’s Court will review the will to make sure that it is valid. The executor will manage your estate and ultimately distribute your assets to the beneficiaries you named in your will according to the terms of your will. The process of managing an estate can be complicated, time-consuming and lengthy, involving the inventorying of estate assets, payment of estate bills, and addressing litigation and other complications that develop during the administration process. Because of the work involved in fulfilling the duties of an executor, under New York Estates, Powers & Trusts Law executors are entitled to be paid a reasonable fee. To learn more about executor fees, contact an experienced New York executor fees lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates.
Duties of an executorFee calculation
In order to be entitled to receive a fee, it is not necessary for the testator to have included a fee term in the will. By law executors are entitled to reasonable fees for the work they do as fiduciaries.
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Percentage Of The Estate’s Value
The worst way to pay a probate lawyerfrom the estate’s point of viewis to pay a percentage of the value of the estate as the fee. This is customary only in a few states. And even in those states, lawyers are not required by law to collect a percentage fee. You can and should try to negotiate an hourly rate or flat fee with the lawyer. But many lawyers prefer the “statutory fee” because it’s usually very high in relation to the amount of work they have to do.
State law allows lawyers to charge a set percentage fee in:
These fees are often high under the circumstances because they are calculated based on the gross value of the probate assets, not the net value. For example, if you’re handling an estate that includes a house worth $300,000, with $175,000 left on the mortgage, the lawyer’s fee would be based on $300,000not the $125,000 of equity the estate actually owns. And the probate paperwork for a transferring a $1 million house is basically the same as it is for transferring a $150,000 houseso why should the fee be so different?
You can get an idea of how high these fees are by looking at California’s statutory fee schedule. For “ordinary” services, a lawyer can collect:
- 4% of the first 100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
- 3% of the next $100,000
- 2% of the next $800,000
- 1% of the next $9 million
- ½% of the next 15 million
- “a reasonable amount” of anything over $25 million
You May Not Need A Lawyer For Settlement
If you are the executor and also the sole heir, or if your estates affairs are fairly simple, you dont necessarily need an attorney for estate settlement. You may be able to handle this part of the process on your own to save on legal fees.
Example: We helped Paul get appointed as administrator of his wifes estate. Since he was the sole heir to her simple assets, we advised Paul to proceed with estate administration on his own. Our team instructed him on the next steps until he felt comfortable to finish the process without our assistance.
However, do keep in mind that even in simple cases, you may want to retain a lawyers help because the process is rather time-consuming. This is especially true for executors who live out-of-state or abroad and cant easily complete the process on their own.
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Planning To Cover Costs
You will need to think about how to cover these costs upfront. Some fees, such as the court fees, will need to be paid at the time services are rendered. Others may be willing to wait for the payment until the estate is settled. However, they may have a contingency of how long they are willing to wait in case delays should arise and probate goes on for months or even years.
If the estate has liquid assets, such as bank accounts, you can usually use this money to pay for the fees. You will need to keep a record of accounting to prove how the money was spent. You may also need to get the courts permission before you pay the fees.
What Does A Probate Attorney Do
A probate attorney assists the personal representative in navigating the legal process known as probate. You can hire them to help with a specific task when administering an estate.
The probate attorney can assist with any of the following probate matters:
Collecting and managing the decedent’s assets
Appraising, evaluating, and selling estate assets, including real estate
Filing tax returns and paying estate tax
Settling debts and paying
Preparing and filing documents with the probate court
Appearing in court for probate litigation
Related: Does a will have to be probated?
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What Happens If I Don’t Have A Will
In New York, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state “intestacy” laws. New York’s intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, great grandchildren, and great nieces and nephews. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.